Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (2022) Review!!

Synopsis – Explores every facet of Yankovic’s life, from his meteoric rise to fame with early hits like ‘Eat It’ and ‘Like a Surgeon’ to his torrid celebrity love affairs and famously depraved lifestyle.

My Take – With Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), Rocketman (2019) and Elvis (2022) being massive commercial successes, the demand for biographical musical dramas continues to be at all time high with many biopics on some of the biggest names from the modern music history already in the works. Audiences too for decades have lapped up the formulaic strategic set up which sees their favorite underdog musician rise to fame and then ultimately stumble, leaving behind a legacy to remember them.

However, Eric Appel‘s directorial debut is not like any of them. For nearly five decades now, Alfred MatthewWeird AlYankovic has defined what parody music looks like at its best. So it shouldn’t come as surprise that a biopic on the same man would be a parody itself. Working as an obligatory rise-and-fall story, the film has no basis in reality, and sees Weird Al as a superstar-dating, drug lord-slaughtering musical sensation, who was adored and revered by all who heard his lame lyrical reworkings of 80s pop songs.

Re-imagined by “Weird Al” Yankovic himself, who co-wrote the film with Eric Appel, the resulting film is a beautiful celebration of all things weird that stays true to its subject’s personality with a hilarious lampooning of the standard biopic formula, filled with really funny inaccuracy and plenty of delightful surprises as it takes us through a wild ride though the ups and downs of being almost the best accordion player of all time and the number one in a very limited category.

Yes, the film is a very silly and absurd, but it is also sporadically hilarious throughout, and anchored by a very game Daniel Radcliffe who in a curly wig gives it all with his perfect, comedic performance, it is precisely what one would expect from Yankovic.

Nevertheless, when Al discovers that his musical gifts are embraced by other teenagers who are heavily into polka music, especially his playing of accordion, which his mother (Julianne Nicholson) secretly purchased for him, he leaves home and lives in an apartment with three roommates — Steve (Spencer Treat Clark), Jim (Jack Lancaster), and Bermuda (Tommy O’Brien). After Al fails to score a gig in an existing band, his roommates encourage him to write his own song.

After a few moments of reluctance, inspiration strikes and Al pens “My Bologna,” a parody of the Knack’s “My Sharona.” He records the song and mails it to a local DJ, and it immediately becomes the most requested song of the week. Soon, finding himself under the wing of Dr. Demento (Rainn Wilson), Al turns into an overnight success. A success which not only falls into an excessive rock and roll lifestyle but also attracts the attention of Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood) and Pablo Escobar (Arturo Castro) to unexpected ends.

As one would expect, the narrative gets progressively more absurd and further from reality. Eric Appel‘s direction is fantastic, the whole film walks and talks like a parody sketch which works perfectly for what it’s is going for. This is a film that understands how ridiculous and impossible it can be to endeavor to make a biopic that actually captures not just the work of an artist, but their life. Instead, the film does for the genre what the real Weird Al does for pop hits: deconstruct it, remix it, regurgitate it, and then make it better. Co-written by Appel and Yankovic himself, the film both embraces and skewers most of the musical biopics that came before it, along with the history of music itself.

Like Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007), the film follows every single trope in the book, from the divine inspiration behind each iconic song, to the obligatory disappointing father, substance abuse problem, and cameos from famous celebrities, all before hilariously lampooning each of those clichés. It’s something of an onslaught of humor, using every scene as an excuse to deliver one or more joke.

Much like director Appel’s original faux-trailer short, the feature rewrites Yankovic’s life by creating a strange amalgamation of reality and fiction. One of the film’s greatest strengths is the way it expertly links these false scenarios in with Weird Al’s real history, consistently forcing the audience to question what reality really means within fiction.

Yes, sadly some of the jokes don’t land that well, and the third act meanders a bit, but thankfully the film gets back on track with a crazy and finale act that takes the film into unexpected directions. Sure, it’s not particularly groundbreaking or subversive, but it doesn’t need to be.

Performance wise, Daniel Radcliffe is basically perfect as Weird Al, easily matching the film’s insanity with consistently great comedic timing and clearly having an absolute blast. Surpassing his bizarre performance in Swiss Army Man (2016) by turning weirdness up to eleven, Radcliffe brings in a brilliant, off-the-wall turn, perfectly fitting for the film’s farcical nature and the character’s refined goofiness. Evan Rachel Wood does a great job as Madonna, channeling her skill for self-promotion and go-get-them attitude, while re-imagining the singer as a murderous psychopath.

In supporting turns, Rainn Wilson, Toby Huss, Arturo Castro and Julianne Nicholson absolutely throws himself into their roles. In other roles, Will Forte, Spencer Treat Clark, Jack Lancaster, Tommy O’Brien, and Quinta Brunson are effective. Jack Black, David Dastmalchian, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Thomas Lennon appear in delightful cameos. On the whole, ‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story’ is a ridiculous and over-the-top biopic that completely embraces the absurd.

Directed – 

Starring – Daniel Radcliffe, Evan Rachel Wood, Julianne Nicholson

Rated – TV14

Run Time – 108 minutes

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