Weird Al Yankovic probably suspects that some will sit down to watch “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” with the belief that it’s an honest biopic.
Some people obviously don’t know enough Yankovic’s expertise as a satirist and parodist, alongside his world-class accordion skills. He may be the best-selling comedic artist of all time, with hits in each of the past four decades, but The genius of Weird Al goes beyond just changing the lyrics of popular tunes to be funnier.
Over the past decade he has used both his musical and critical chops to take swings political madness and the accelerated decline of social graces thanks to social media and instant communication, in addition to generating online content, making videos and writing children’s books.
Thereby, All Weird Al Yankovic contribution to the rock and roll biopic genre, a building block of cinema that takes itself far too seriously, should expect to zealously ridicule its cliches and indulgences. Yankovic and his “Weird” co-writer and director Eric Appel have a slew of tropes served up in recent movie hits to choose from, ensuring people will find his origin story has a lot in common with that of any movie. rock star interesting enough to have a movie made about them.
His very public fall into drug addiction sounds a lot like Jim Morrison’s onstage madness in “The Doors.” A little like Johnny Cash (“walk the line“), this Weird Al had an abusive father who, like the Elton John of “Rocketman“, misunderstood his humor and fondness for loud tropical patterned shirts.
This is a highly doctored and often hilarious “story”.
“Your dad and I had a long talk,” Mary Yankovic (Julianne Nicholson) says to little Al after he demonstrates an affinity for coming up with funnier lyrics to famous songs, “and we agreed it would be best for all of us to stop being who you are and do the things you love.”
Nevertheless, she secretly buys him an accordion which he plays like the genius he is. And the rest, as they say, is highly doctored and often hilarious “history”.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (Photo courtesy of Roku)
Somehow this all seems plausible for the few minutes or so that “Weird” plays straight before dialing the absurdity meter to a full bizarro boil that launches us into an alternate universe where Weird Al, performed by Daniel Radcliffeis one of the most famous rock stars on the planet.
Radcliffe’s post-“Harry Potter” career has taken a wonderfully unexpected direction via comedies like this, including his turns as a powerfully flatulent corpse in “Swiss Army Man” and unwitting action hero in “Guns Akimbo “. To make a movie like this work, it takes an actor who isn’t just playing against type, but who’s dead serious about pushing the satire as far as his membrane will stretch.
Radcliffe is a perfect choice. It captures the sly intellect of Yankovic’s style through a seriously engaged performance that borders on buffoonery sweetness when it needs to, which only more effectively sells the surreality of “Weird.”
Beginning with showing young Al’s mother berating him for listening to Dr. Demento (Rainn Wilson) on the radio, the film establishes Yankovic’s renegade quirkiness as a product of rebellion. His vindictive father wants his son to give up – even before he has started in life – and work with him in a factory that manufactures… who knows what? As far as we know, its main product is amputees and disability claims.
Somehow, though, Al finds a way to believe in himself, drawing inspiration from the mundane—bologna sandwiches, Rocky Road ice cream—to go from secret wonderkid to squeezebox of the heck to one of the most successful rock stars of our time.
Just when we think we’re looking at a pretty standard send-off of rock star movies, “Weird” morphs into an entirely different type of film that involves Pablo Escobar (“Broad City” alum Arturo Castro).
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (Photo courtesy of Roku)
“Weird” began as a trailer for Funny or Die released in 2010 starring Aaron Paul as Weird Al and featuring, among other stars, Mary Steenburgen and Gary Cole as his skeptical parents. But Radcliffe is a better choice to play him – he has the ability to radiate a genius like his subject, similarly crystallized in the scenes the actor shares with Yankovic, who plays a skeptical record company executive.
Some of the film’s weirder details are based on the truth though not recreated to the letter, which is part of the gag.
Evan Rachel Wood emerges as a hilarious succubus version of Madonna, part of a deep bench of stars collaborating to create a world where the likes of Pee-wee Herman and Wolfman Jack (Jack Black) have equal industry appeal. of the record than Clive Davis, and where Weird Al is important enough to merit an intimate profile by Oprah Winfrey (Quinta Brunson). (Winfrey featured Yankovic on a 1984 episode of “AM Chicago,” but he didn’t wear his platinum records around his neck and live in a tacky golden mansion.)
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Indeed, some of the film’s weirdest details are based on the truth, though not recreated to the letter, which is part of the gag.
Yankovic acquiesces to this in the original song he wrote for “Weird” which plays during the end credits. “If it’s in a movie, it must be true!” he sings in a verse, followed by that a few lines later with, “Yeah, that’s how it all went bro / We checked every fact.”
“Weird” can be messy, which is normal for a film about a musician and comedian for whom nothing is off-limits — except, perhaps, the work of artists who refuse to play along with his parodies. But his mess is essential to his clumsiness and his mission to turn a mad mix of facts into a wild fabrication.
By the end, it should be obvious that this is more of a tale than a biography, and that’s fine. The reality of a rock star’s story is often more sobering than the fantasy built around them. Whether this is true for Yankovic can be revealed in another work. He controls this one, and we’ll have a good laugh.
“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” debuts on the Roku Channel on Friday, November 4.
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