'Weird: The Al Yankovic Story': A Biopic That (Mostly) Lives Up to Its Title
How does one go about making a biopic about the great "Weird Al" Yankovic? A legend of music, and perhaps the greatest parody artist of all time, Yankovic has had a long and storied career. Since just about every great musician ends up getting their big biopic sooner or later, it was only a matter of time before we got a movie about The Weird One himself. But unlike other music biopics that take a serious approach to their subjects, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is a much sillier affair. Billed as "the unexaggerated true story" of Yankovic's career, Weird is a film that honors Yankovic (who co-wrote the screenplay) by depicting his rise to success and painting him as a rockstar who lives an excessive lifestyle. The film takes aim at the tropes and clichés of your typical musical biopic, which plays perfectly into Yankovic's sensibilities as an artist perfectly. The result is a portrait of Al Yankovic that is funny, ridiculous, and above all, weird.
Based off a short video that was made for Funny or Die back in 2010, the film takes on a similar structure to most musical biopics, as we start with Yankovic's childhood, where his stern father (played by Toby Huss) forbids him from playing the accordion. This strains their relationship, and a young Al vows that he will be successful one day. We flash forward to Al as an adult (played by Daniel Radcliffe) and see his rise to fame and subsequent struggles, which includes alcohol abuse and an ill-fated romance with pop superstar Madonna (played by Evan Rachel Wood). In the process, the film hits the familiar beats of the standard biopic, but it puts its own little spin on them, acting as a satire of the genre, and makes for a hilarious ride.
I have been a fan of Weird Al since I was a kid, and I unabashedly love his music and his signature style. So it's not surprising that I liked this movie quite a bit, as it is so in line with Yankovic's body of work. However, I couldn't help but wish it was a little, for lack of a better term, weirder. The film has no shortage of moments that are ridiculous and silly, but it feels like it is holding back ever so slightly. When the film really goes for broke in being weird or quirky, it is pretty great. The opening 30 minutes are quite solid, and it is mainly because it is the portion of the film that adheres to its strange sense of humor the most. After this, it loses a bit of steam, and the humor kind of ebbs and flows. However, the film still manages to be quite funny overall, and its commitment to the overarching bit is perfect. It walks the line between being goofy and being earnest quite well, and has a good control over its tone. It might come at the cost of the film being as outlandish as I was expecting, but it is still admirable nonetheless.
When it was announced that Daniel Radcliffe was set to play Weird Al in this film, I was both surprised and excited. He isn't the person my mind would go to for this film, but that is part of why he is a great casting choice. Radcliffe is a great actor, and I personally think he's at his best when he takes on unconventional projects like this one. As Yankovic, Radcliffe is fully dialed in, and gives a hilarious performance that expertly blends the fact and fiction of who Weird Al is. He is game for all the wild turns the film takes, and he completely understands the energy that it is going for.
Possibly the biggest surprise of the film is Evan Rachel Wood's turn as Madonna. I am used to seeing Wood in more serious fare, so I was fascinated when I found out that she was cast in this. In the film, Madonna is written as a scheming popstar who only cares about her own success. Wood nails this element of the character, and brings some honesty to the role that lets the wilder parts of the character shine through. There is a particular scene between her and Al in the film's third act that is one of the funniest parts of the film, and it is mainly because of what she is doing in it. The film takes a weird approach to the character, but Wood handles it like a champ, and gives a standout performance.
I'm normally not one for films that have numerous cameos, but I couldn't help but be delighted by a great number of the ones that this film has. It's mainly in terms of how the film executes them, and the fact that most of them are from people I like. I don't want to spoil them, but I will say that many of them were a pleasant surprise. There is one sequence that takes place in a party hosted by Dr. Demento (played by Rainn Wilson) that is one of my favorite part of the film, and most of why I liked it so much is because of the specificity of the cameos and how the film uses them in the scene. One specific cameo in the scene made me laugh especially hard, but I don't want to spoil what it was here.
One of the most important aspects of any musical biopic is how well the film uses the music of its subject. With Weird, some of Weird Al's most well-known songs are re-contextualized to assist with the film's storytelling. For instance, My Bologna is framed as a song that comes to Al in a spark of inspiration while making a bologna sandwich for one of his roommates. Many of his other songs are used in a similar way throughout, as they take on a new life within the film's plot. This allows the music to feel fresh and help them stand out, and it feels refreshing compared to the way most biopics use their subject's music. There are also little references to Weird Al's music and persona all throughout the film that will delight some of his biggest fans.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is a gleefully funny film that honors the life and career of Weird Al in the best way possible. To give the king of parody songs a film that parodies musical biopics is such a great idea, and it works pretty well in execution. I do wish that it would have been a bit more sillier with its humor, but it is still hilarious all the same. Fans of Weird Al will enjoy this film without a doubt, as it is a lovingly made film that captures the essence of Yankovic quite well, and has plenty of big laughs throughout. I have my nitpicks with it, but I can't deny how much fun I had watching this. It's what you would hope a biopic about "Weird Al" Yankovic would be like, and it is a pretty solid comedy in its own right.