Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (2022) — A biopic parody

“One day I’m going to be the best. Well, perhaps not technically the best, but arguably the most famous accordion player in an extremely specific genre of music!”

Justin’s rating: But where’s the origin story for White and Nerdy?

Justin’s review: Like many self-effacing geeks, I’ve always been a pretty big Weird Al fan. I own every single one of his songs (originals and parodies) and have his entire discography on my music player. I can quote UHF fluently, am one of sixteen people in the world who even remembers The Compleat Al, and I freebased The Weird Al Show for a time. So you best believe that I was pushing my way into movie theaters to see Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.

Then I had to push my way home, because it wasn’t in any theater I could find, but rather it was on Roku. Curse the streaming age and its confounding rollouts!

Now if you know anything about Weird Al’s actual life, you know that he’s about one of the most wholesome and non-controversial musicians out there. VH1’s Behind the Music episode on him had to dig so hard to find anything even mildly tense about the comedy-music star (and even then, it was that old Coolio-was-mildly-perturbed-about-the-Amish-Paradise-parody dustup that was settled a long time ago). So the idea of a biopic on his life seemed like a nonstarter when I first heard about it.

Which is why it totally made sense for the king of song parodies to try his hand at a biopic parody. The problem with it, and perhaps the crux of it, is that it’s simply, well, weird.

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story presents a mostly fictitious retelling of Weird Al’s origins and rise to fame and glory. It borrows a few true elements from his actual life… but only a few. Think of this as a bizarro alternative universe version of how a nerdy accordion player broke out as a huge parody performer. In this universe, Al (Daniel Radcliffe) comes from a family where his disapproving dad tries to suppress Al’s love of music and polka parties. Yet even so, Al is inspired by his role model, Dr. Demento (Rainn Wilson, with the worst beard ever) to take the lyrics to well-known songs and make something silly out of them.

Many of his early hits, like “Eat It,” “My Bologna,” and “Like a Surgeon” come from Al’s strange encounters and fortuitous observations. Probably the best was when he went to a backyard party filled with an escalatingly strange assortment of characters, such as Devo, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Pee Wee Herman, David Bowie, Gallagher, Elvira, and Alice Cooper. There, he’s pressured on the spot by Wolfman Jack to come up with a parody of “Another One Bites the Dust,” which sparks a raucous rendition of “Another One Rides the Bus” while everyone goes crazy.

Because every music biopic has to show how fame got to the head of the singer, Weird Al soon starts to have an affair with Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood, who isn’t as good a fit for the film as Radcliffe is), goes on a bender, and eventually ends up on a rampage against drug cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar. Eventually, the mix of love, glory, and popularity ends up being a dangerous mix, bringing Weird Al’s life to a tragic end.

When Weird goes off the rails, it can bring about some of the best parts of the movie. My brother in law and I howled at some scenes, especially the ones in the Factory (which hosts a running gag of nobody ever explaining what the Factory makes, other than casualties), or how Michael Jackson ended up “parodying” Weird Al, or with the abrupt John Wick-style revenge spree. But as glorious as those moments are, they come at an unsteady pace and are staggered by somewhat boring scenes and underused actors (such as Yankovic himself, who plays Weird Al’s manager).

The whole movie was filmed in 18 days, and it kind of shows with its sometimes shoddy visuals, scattershot jokes, and abrupt “how do we wrap this up?” ending. Some of the gags are only amusing if you know the actual lyrics to Weird Al’s tunes and then can pick them out of the dialogue. But it’s nowhere near as unhinged and brilliant as UHF, and that’s a problem for me.

Back in the day, we’d call this a “one-time renter.” As in, rent it from the store once so that you can say you saw it, but you’ll probably never feel the need to watch it again.

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