There’s something perfect about the concept of “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.” It doesn’t mark new territory that its peers “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” and “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” didn’t already cover. Its point of poking fun at celebrities through a variety of amazing cameos, awards shows and artists going through asshole character arcs is enjoyable but nothing new. What makes “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” a perfect formula is that “Weird Al” Yankovic’s corner of the music industry is as niche as the movie genre this biopic belongs to, thus making his music and the film a match made in heaven.
Nothing matters without the charisma of Daniel Radcliffe as Weird Al. His fluffy performance can be as random as the script directs him to go, causing him to be the ultimate chameleon. One moment he is a talented up-and-coming accordion player and a “John Wick” style action hero the next. The film’s silly and self-deprecating tone begin almost from the get-go after a slow and obligatory backstory sequence. It hits its stride once grown-up Weird Al — played by Radcliffe — appears and the idea for his first parody song “My Bologna” is first conceived. This scene of conception shows the ridiculousness the movie has in store, with Weird Al’s over-exaggerated roommates seeing a genius in the making and with the crescendo of the epic music as Weird Al figures out the idea for the hook while hearing “My Sharona” on the radio. This moment, along with the rest of the film’s ideas, has so much room to be strange since it doesn’t matter that this never happened.
The film only falls deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of oddities, including Madonna as a drug cartel member and Weird Al turning down John Deacon from Queen to perform at their Live Aid set. The film’s range of takedowns showcase the script’s strongest strength. It goes after typical plot beats of biopics but makes fun of specific moments in other biopics as well as the music industry itself. Weird Al’s drunken and shirtless stage presence is a direct nod to Jim Morrison from the Doors, but can be taken as a general parody of artists in music biopics having obnoxious and embarrassing onstage moments. In terms of industry references, the movie perfectly handles Weird Al’s parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” Depicting Weird Al’s “Eat It” as an original song that came before “Beat It” is an ingenious joke with multiple levels of irony relating to the actual timeline of those songs and how people viewed certain artists then versus now. Finally, the film makes references to relationships Weird Al had in his real-life career, such as his offers to parody Prince’s songs, which were always turned down.
By the film’s end, the film returns to its sluggishness that burdened the beginning. The payoff of a joke with Weird Al’s parents is quite funny but takes away from the rest of the comical characters that end up reappearing afterward for too short a time.
“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” feels like a film made with love and care, which is unsurprising since it was written by comedy writer Eric Appel and the man himself, Weird Al. The script’s double-edged sword of parody jokes and irreverence is definitely its defining feature and nearly works every time on a conceptual and comedic level. There are so many winks and Easter eggs to find that a second watch is almost essential if you have any love for Weird Al’s career. Radcliffe and the cast perform perfectly within this nonsensical world with loads of entertaining cameos like Conan O’Brien as Andy Warhol and Jack Black as Wolfman Jack. You can tell everyone was having a fun time working on it and feeling no shame in making what is definitely the weirdest movie of the year.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars