Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is a love letter to and satire of music biopics. That shouldn’t really be surprising just by looking at the trailer, but what really is surprising about the movie is that it never falls into any traps that plague satires or parodies. You know the kind of mistakes I’m talking about. It’s like if you’re watching a horror film and the black guy says that the black guy always dies in a horror movie first before immediately being killed off. Just because you identify a cliche doesn’t mean you’re absolved of its sins when you commit them. I was worried at the beginning that Weird: The Al Yankovic Story was going to make those exact same mistakes.
At first, you may think that Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is going to be a pretty straightforward, if light-hearted, look at Weird Al’s life as a musician. It does so with a little bit of tongue and cheek in mind, but then it quickly descends into an alternate reality of insanity that’s quirky, hilarious, and yes, quite weird. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you half of the things that took place in the film and I think that’s kind of amazing. This is, according to Weird Al himself, the totally 100% true story of his life.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
Director: Eric Appel
Release Date: November 4, 2022 (Roku Channel)
In the spirit of musical biopics like Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story follows the upbringing of Weird Al Yankovic (Daniel Radcliffe), starting from the moment an accordion salesman comes to his door and
pawns one off on him graciously gives it to him. We follow Al as he grows up feeling like an outcast and moving to California to find fame, and eventually making it when he starts to write parody songs. When he’s starting out, no one wants to hear them, but once he gets the backing of Dr. Demento (Riann Wilson), Al’s star rises to astronomical highs as the film follows the creation of hit songs like “Fat” and his romance with Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood).
As far as musicals go, I really dig the music here. Weird Al recorded new versions of most of his hit songs up until “Amish Paradise” and they all sound crisp and delightful. Hearing his voice come out of Daniel Radcliffe’s mouth is never not funny, something that they were almost certainly going for. Whereas Bohemian Rhapsody never really addressed the lip-syncing that was present and how distracting it was, by making it intentionally obvious here, it makes those moments work. Daniel Radcliffe really commits to the gag and seeing him travel through the standard rockstar’s journey is fun, especially given how seriously he plays the part.
The humor throughout the film is solid and completely unexpected. From having Al sing along with a bunch of weird pop culture figures from the 70s and 80s to his roller coaster one-day romance with Madonna, the film always had me laughing at something. Even when the dialogue was surgically on the nose, like when Al’s mom tells him to his face that he should stop following his dreams and he should give up on them, you have to appreciate how forceful Appel is in making you laugh in every scene. Like most good comedies, even when the jokes don’t land, there’s always another one ready to go to make you forget about the previous one.
If you were looking for a realistic depiction of Weird Al’s upbringing, you’re definitely not going to find it here. The tone is irreverent overall and goes overboard, at times being a parody of not only Al’s life but also the biopic genre. It never felt like Weird: The Al Yankovic Story was trying to have its cake and eat it too. The film makes no qualms about not being completely honest and expects you to be in on the gag from frame one. I went into the movie with the wrong mindset but once I shifted into accepting the lunacy on display, I was having a blast. I do wonder how the film will do on repeat viewings, the true test of any comedy, but going into it as a fan of Al’s music, I know that I’ll at least enjoy that on subsequent screenings.
The film does get a little long in the tooth towards the end when it looks like it could have ended at multiple points. It’s only then that I feel that the comedy becomes a bit overwhelming. The final scene is absolutely great with some wonderful sequences that made me laugh, but getting there felt a bit haphazard. It’s during these moments that you can get the impression that this is, well, a Funny or Die sketch with the budget of a feature film. A handful of scenes don’t really connect with one another and serve mostly to have a bunch of famous people make a cameo or two and head out. I don’t have a problem with that in theory, but when all of it is shoved into the last half hour of the film, you start to notice it and really feel the lack of cohesion from scene to scene.
That doesn’t stop Weird: The Al Yankovic Story from being a great time for fans of Al’s and newcomers alike. I don’t know how well the movie is going to do given its odd release of being a Roku Original (this is probably the biggest original film the service has), but I hope it doesn’t get swept under the rug in the process. Daniel Radcliffe turns in a hilarious performance and makes every scene he’s in a delight, and he’s supported by an all-star cast having fun just being goofy. The film was shot in an impressive 18 days and you can tell the cast had fun filming this as quickly as they did. For a one-time viewing, this is a great little film for anyone looking for something that isn’t afraid to be off the wall and insane. Just don’t go into it expecting anything more than a satire of the genre.