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Review: Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (2022)

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (2022)

Directed by: Eric Appel

Premise: A fictional biopic of musician Weird Al Yankovic. Rising to fame on the success of parody songs, Yankovic (Daniel Radcliffe) has a torrid love affair with Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood) and succumbs to the vices of stardom.

What Works: The last few years have seen the release of a lot of musical films including 2018’s A Star is Born, music documentaries such as Amazing Grace and Zappa, and a great number of biopics of famous musicians including Straight Outta Compton, Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman. Weird: The Al Yankovic Story takes aim at the clichés of this genre and sends them up, doing for the celebrity biopic what Weird Al’s songs did for popular music. Part of the success of Weird Al’s career was the way he understood the music he was lampooning and perfectly imitated the techniques and instrumentation and matched it with goofy lyrics. In doing so, Weird Al blew apart the self-importance of pop music, having a laugh at its expense but in a way that was funny and never meanspirited. Weird follows the rags-to-riches-to-rehab formula of show business narratives in which the subject is either destroyed by fame or overcomes addiction to sing another day. The actors and the filmmakers play this completely straight with an increasingly absurd series of set pieces and plot twists, some that are lifted from other musical dramas. Weird does this as well as Yankovic’s best parody songs and the film is consistently funny. The picture’s success owes a lot to its cast. Daniel Radcliffe is cast as Weird Al and Radcliffe gets the joke, throwing himself into the biopic clichés and playing Yankovic as a self-absorbed artist. Evan Rachel Wood is equally impressive as Madonna. Weird imagines Yankovic led astray by Madonna and Wood, an actress who hasn’t gotten many opportunities to show her comic side, is very funny.

What Doesn’t: Weird dubs in Yankovic’s songs and it’s very obvious that Daniel Radcliffe is lip-synching to the music. Given the tone of the story, the dissonance between the sound and image suits the movie but it is also distracting. Viewers familiar with Weird Al’s work—not only his music but his music videos and live shows—will notice a consistently hokey look to the gags. The props and effects in those projects are deliberately unreal and campy. Weird doesn’t share that style. In 1989 Yankovic starred in the film UHF which was a box office flop at the time. Weird makes no mention of this, which makes some sense given the fabricated nature of the story, but the filmmakers miss an opportunity to revisit and revise history.

Disc extras: Available on the Roku Channel.

Bottom Line: Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is a terrifically funny parody of celebrity biopics. It’s absurd in exactly the way that made Weird Al’s music so successful and Weird skewers the clichés and self-importance that so often characterizes this genre of films.

Episode: #933 (January 1, 2023)