Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
Daniel Radcliffe gives a surprisingly committed performance as the comedic musician in a hilariously unconventional biopic that dares us to be stupid.
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Musical biopics are a dime a dozen these days, where the audience gets a fictional glimpse behind some of our favorite artists then and now. They can be tiring for some who know what to gain from them. You got your “What’s Love Got to Do With It” or “Straight Outta Compton” from recent outings like “Elvis.” But when you have an original movie from The Roku Channel focusing on the legend known as “Weird Al” Yankovic, you automatically know it will be far from conventional for one of the funniest comedies of the year with "Weird: The Al Yankovic Story."
As a young boy living in 1980s California, Alfred Matthew Yankovic was never understood by his parents, Nick and Mary (Toby Huss and Julianne Nicholson). They believe it would be best for him to stop being who he is and doing the things he loves. He wants to make songs for fun, but his father wants him to work at the factory (What do they do there? That's the real question.). He had to keep his first accordion a secret from his father since he believes it was the devil's instrument.
Years later, after graduating from high school, Al (Daniel Radcliffe) is still chasing his dreams: Writing songs and changing the lyrics to make them funny. But his life changed for the better when he heard The Knack's song “My Sharona” and turned it into the polka sensation “My Bologna” and sends the song to the Captain Buffoon show. An overnight hit after it hit the radio leads to meeting Dr. Demento (Rainn Wilson) and gives him his stage name "Weird Al."
When I first heard they were making a biopic about the comedian singer, it sounded like the strangest idea to work on—so intrigued, yet out of left field. Especially hearing it would stream through Roku. However, little did I know this entire movie is based on a popular 2010 Funny or Die sketch starring Aaron Paul as the man himself. Who would’ve thought 12 years later director/ co-writer Eric Appel turned that into an actual movie that accomplished bringing the hilarity for two hours straight?
Truthfully, I've been a fan of his since I was a kid. Back in the ‘80s, nobody thought about changing the lyrics to hit songs, making it his own and becoming famous. Because when he parodies something from a band or artist, that’s when they know they made it big. Who hasn’t listened to “White & Nerdy,” “Smells Like Nirvana,” or the crown jewel in his discography “Amish Paradise.” I still remember all the songs that are a part of “Polkarama.” But when you think "Weird: The Al Yankovic Story" would be your average biopic, you clearly don’t know the man's brand of style.
Even when it can play out like a long Funny or Die sketch, this is the most exaggerated true story ever to come by that stays on track. And when it has a script penned by Appel and Yankovic (who appears as Tony Scotti) themselves, the very first thing to know is, much like his music, this is a comedy you don’t have to take seriously when it’s going through the heights of Yankovic’s life with some elements that are true. But did you expect his story to be anything less than a parody? Instead, the runtime explores his life through a great, over-the-top parody of recent biopics we see with the cliches chronicling the rise and fall structure from a rough childhood to the major success he'd become.
Everything you’ll see in “Weird” could be true if we want it to be, and it lets us know it’s okay. Being weird is game throughout, as the inspiration for his creation of songs we know and love on the spot is pure genius. Just when I knew where the story was heading, it was as if the movie slapped me by surprise and went bonkers from where we started. Somewhere near the third act, in particular, kind of strained away briefly, though it kept that wild nature to nearly look past it.
Daniel Radcliffe wouldn’t have been the first actor to come to mind when playing Weird Al. Still, his performance proves he has come a long way from his "Harry Potter" days and continued to impress everyone by taking on different roles to showing his comedic chops with "Swiss Army Man" and "The Lost City," respectively. Does it matter if he looks like him? Not necessarily. All that doesn’t matter with a movie like this is we’re seeing him embracing the silliness with his portrayal of Alfred through the lens of what the film calls him the most incredible musician alive, thinking he’s the coolest person in the entire space of those around him. He channels the inner weirdness of the buff man through the glasses, colorful Hawaiian shirts, and fake curly hair, all while lip-synching his songs in a game-changing fashion. If you know him, you would know that this portrayal of him is entirely at odds with how he actually acts in real life. He appeared to be enjoying himself immensely.
Besides Radcliffe, Evan Rachel Wood, as her version of Madonna, should be worth nothing as she has a quick relationship with Al. Is it true romance or a way to have one of her singles rise from the so-called “Yankovic Bump?” Call me crazy, but this might be the best thing she’s done when Wood also plays everything straight within this plot. Their romance might not be true, but I’m pretty sure she had a hand in “Like a Surgeon.” There’s also Rainn Wilson as Dr. Demento, Al’s mentor, and a bunch of cameos from familiar comedic faces that you can’t help but to get a kick out of when they appear on-screen during a party. I don’t want to spoil who’s in here, but they come as a surprise.
Does comedy solely depend on your brand of taste? Not every joke will hit home for all since they're plain dumb on the surface and they’re made for hardcore fans, and it worked on making me laugh a lot. For me, this is my brand of humor when injected well with well-executed parodies, especially when Al comes up with “My Bologna” or “Another One Rides the Bus” on the spot. Have you ever heard of a polka party? This has it. The closest for me of nearly laughing out loud involved Al’s father and a door-to-door accordion salesman that came out of nowhere. A movie like Weird would have easily been a failed attempt at a satire that made good on its short but failed to capitalize on a full feature. Instead, it brings the laughs and unexpected heart to a ridiculous premise.
It isn’t very reassuring knowing it didn't go straight to theaters, since the crowds will eat this up. Even better, I wished I had been in the room during Midnight Madness at TIFF. Not only can this movie be pulled off for a crazy double feature with "UHF," but why not make it a fun time with a triple feature of this, "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story," and "Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny." Just the end credits song will have you smile to the last second.
Overall, “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” is one absurd biopic parody to fill your life with joy. Are we looking at the most accurate movie ever? Not in the slightest. But it’s a fun and breezy piece of entertainment with a committed Daniel Radcliffe performance and non-stop laughs from start to finish. So if you are looking for a good comedy to watch at home not to contain your laughter, go over to the Roku Channel and dare to be stupid.