Swiss Army Man’s silly nature becomes clear from the first moments in which Manny is introduced. Though he starts out as an inanimate corpse washed up on the beach, he brings irony and childish humor as he interrupts Hank’s hopeful monologue by farting. These opening moments enforce this whacky and ridiculous tone with even more clarity when Hank uses the gas coming from Manny to jet ski across the ocean, immediately establishing a comedic and relationship with death in the film. Swiss Army Man constantly attacks the notions of shame in the face of natural bodily functions and emotions.
As Manny comes to life he discovers the natures of the world through his experiences with Hank, it is because of this unique dynamic that we see Hank’s perceptions of the world being challenged. Uninhibited by social shame Manny does not understand the taboos of sex and the human body, and when he really digs into why they should be stigmatized, to which Hank has no real answer. This innocence found Manny is what aids the growth of Hank. However, it is the corruption of Manny’s innocence as he discovers the world that parallels the human experience of growing (specifically childhood and adolescence).
One of the strongest elements of the film is its use of music. Performed by Andy Hull and Robert McDowell (incorporating the singing of the two leads), the music captures and brings to life the emotion in every scene. The distinct sound style and use of songs like “Cotton Eyed Joe” and the Jurassic Park theme trigger individualized memories for audience members who are likely to have had memorable experiences with these songs. The music affects the atmosphere of the piece in such a beautiful way, such as how the song “Montage” gives the scene sequence it is played over a fluidity and playful feeling that is otherwise impossible. The music in Swiss Army Man is memorable in its own right, deeply strengthening the piece as a whole from start to finish.
Paul Dano’s portrayal of Hank is one relatable and heartfelt for an audience member. By the end of the film, you begin to understand and love him in a way that other people seem incapable of. This becomes frustrating as a viewer, but clear for the character himself, leaving questions about reality and sanity in the last shots. The relationship between Hank and Manny becomes real, and says so much about the uptight and disgruntled society in which we all live. The purpose of this film seems to be to poke holes in our serious realities, exposing the inevitable weirdness to the world, and embracing it. Why would we let social humiliation stop us from living the way we desire? Ironically, it is the wise perspective of a child that would tell us to embrace the weird, because to deny that would be to deny happiness in general.
I would definitely recommend watching Swiss Army Man, especially those in need of a laugh. It manages to take very difficult themes and deal with them with humor but also appropriate care. The low moments are so very low, such is life, and it is the difference that makes the joy so special. [Grade: B+]