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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Swiss Army Man is a very unusual indie dramedy about a man (Paul Dano) stranded on a desert island who befriends a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe, in a decided departure from Harry Potter) and manages to persevere. There's a suicide attempt by hanging, a dead body, a bear attack, broken limbs, some blood, fighting, vomiting, poop, and farting (lots of farting). Characters talk frequently about sex and masturbation, and language is fairly strong in general, with multiple uses of words like "f--k," "s--t," and "retarded." In one scene, the characters get drunk on vodka, with comic repercussions. And, through it all, the movie promotes self-confidence, friendship, and teamwork, albeit in a most uncommon manner.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Hank (Paul Dano) is stranded on a deserted island, in total despair, when a body washes up on the beach. Desperate for companionship, Hank tries to revive him, but to no avail; he's dead. But the body's frequent gas emission gives Hank an idea, and he starts to ride it like a motorboat. It brings him to someplace new, a strange woods. Hank, along with the corpse -- whom he names "Manny" (Daniel Radcliffe) -- begins to explore, look for food, and try to find rescue. Meanwhile, Manny starts to speak, and Hank decides to teach him all about life, using trash littered everywhere to make beautiful, illustrative objects. Trouble begins when Manny sees a photo of a girl (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) on Hank's phone and becomes obsessed with finding her.
Is it any good?
This is the kind of bizarre, original, risk-taking independent movie that's increasingly rare to find in an era of superhero and action movie franchises. It's weird, amazing, and refreshing. Co-written and co-directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Swiss Army Man is a compendium of strange ideas, beautiful things, some disturbing thoughts, and a touching friendship that can only be found in movies about actual people.
Notwithstanding his amazing performance as Brian Wilson in last year's Love & Mercy, Paul Dano has never been better as a man wrestling with his identity and humanity, finding wonderful humor in every situation. The filmmakers decorate the screen with such astonishing images -- including a bus made of sticks and junk -- that viewers are constantly swept away. On the other hand, the movie's frequent discussions of bodily functions and death, while grounding, are a bit of a turn-off. But that's the only quibble in an otherwise extraordinary movie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Swiss Army Man's premise. What's the effect of having a dead body as a main character? Is it gross? Scary? Interesting? Does it qualify as violence? Why or why not?
How does the movie make you feel overall? Is it a feel-good movie, a disturbing movie, or a combination of both? What made you most uncomfortable? What made you happiest?
What's the movie's message about friendship? Can you think of other unusual movie friendships?
Is the main character's creativity -- making things from discarded objects -- inspirational? Have you ever made something beautiful out of something no one wanted?
- In theaters: June 24, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: October 4, 2016
- Cast: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
- Directors: Daniel Scheinert, Dan Kwan
- Studio: A24
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character Strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and sexual material
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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