Even after decades in the industry, ‘Weird’ Al Yankovic still has some tricks up his sleeve.
Directed by Eric Appel,?Weird: The Al Yankovic Story?is a cinematic reality that (of course) originated as a joke. For almost a decade, Yankovic has been using a trailer for a fictional biopic about himself at his live performances. Played by Aaron Paul, the brief clip showed this version of ‘Al’ in ridiculous situations and served mainly to allow Al to make costume changes. However, after the latest wave of musical biopics such as?Bohemian Rhapsody,?Rocketman?and?Elvis, Yankovic and Appel decided to give their trailer the feature-length treatment.?
And I?m so thankful that they did.
Directed by Appel (and co-written by Al himself),?Weird?is as wild and unruly as one might expect from Yankovic. I hope getting away any spoilers, the film is a riotous ruckus that is reminiscent of his previous foray into the cinema,?UHF. Parodying virtually every biopic stereotype,?Weird?takes its bizarre humour so seriously that it almost?feels?like it?s going to be an authentic re-telling of his life. However, it very quickly spirals into the Yankovic madness that we know and love. Filled with innumerable cameos, the film is full of surprises that are bound to entertain fans of Yankovic?s lifelong work. (Full disclosure though,?Weird?might not sit as well with those who are neither interested in him nor find him particularly funny.)
Carrying the film is an utterly hilarious (and stoic) performance by Radcliffe as the Weird one. Known for taking strange roles throughout his post-Potter?career, Radcliffe plays the silliness with such seriousness that one cannot help but laugh along the way. While Radcliffe doesn?t do any singing within the film, he embraces the bazaar with endless enthusiasm that one can?t help feel the love. Strong performances by Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna and Rainn Wilson as Dr. Demento also bring life to film as they play well together in the Yankovic sandpit.?
And, given the film?s dry humour, one could be forgiven for not initially realizing the satirical roots of the film. Unlike the outrageous humour of?Walk Hard,?Weird?allows its wildness to build as the film unfolds. Moments in Al’s life almost feel dramatic until they are inverted, flipped on their ear and mocked. For example, in one early scene, young Al ponders a life playing live music yet struggles to get his parents? blessing. Sitting around the dinner table, his mother takes the opportunity to explain their concerns to the young lad. ?Al, your father and I have been talking and we just feel that it would be better for you to give up on your dreams and stop doing what you love,? she says flatly. In this moment, the dryness of her response plays perfectly for the film?s satire of kids who have to ?find themselves? in their music and defy expectations of others.?
But again, what were we expecting from the master of parody?
Although it has moments of heart within it, Weird is not a film with any particular agenda other than send up pop-culture. Like much of Yankovic?s music, the film takes the beats of films gone by, throws them into a blender and pours out something deliciously maddening. However, in doing so, the film also shows its hand as a love letter to the musical icon and his fans. (Al himself would laugh at the use of the term ?icon? in reference to himself but, given that his career is spend over 40 years, it?s also an appropriate use of it the term.) This is a film that wants to play with truth with playfulness. Audiences will undoubtedly finding themselves asking ?Is any of that true??? and that?s exactly the point. Weird serves as a reminder that all biopics require elements of untruth, no matter how many ?facts? they may be based upon.
But, even in its wildest of caricatures and parodies, there?s no doubt that the jokes are made with love. Al has made a career of mocking people without offending and Weird absolutely does the same. What?s more, given the number of cameos within the film, one can?t help but feel the very real affection for a man who has made his career pointing out the silliness of pop culture?s inflated ego. This is a film that dares to be stupid?but always invites you to be in on the joke.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story?is available via Roku on Friday, November 4th, 2022.