Blending the insanity of an internet comedy sketch with the music biopic genre, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story deconstructs the life and achievements of Weird Al in ways I could not have imagined. Directed by Eric Appel, the creator of the Funny of Die fake trailer comedy short, and a stacked cast with some of the best names in the business, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story made a fantastic opening screening for TIFF 2022.
Over the past few years, the musical biopic has stood as a mainstay for festivals and award shows, trying to capture the trials and tribulations of music’s favourite characters. Made to sensationalize the lives of these stars, the story and facts rarely converge, opting to tell an exciting story over sticking to reality. Thankfully, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story does not worry about silly things like facts stand in the way of a good story, and instead embraces the artificial nature of the medium to weave an ever increasingly ludicrous telling of parody song creator Weird Al’s life.
The story is typical for the genre: a young kid wants to bring his dream to life and through a series of adventures and a chance meeting with an accordion salesman, manages to rise to fame, interview with Oprah Winfrey and even clash with drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Yankovic does not pull any punches and pushes the envelope as far as possible as he works to retell his life, action movie set-pieces and all. From the meteoric rise to the inevitable fall from grace as he pushes everyone away that helped him, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is everything you could hope for, and more.
The story borrows heavily from the tropes of the genre, from parents that don’t support him, to the often divine inspiration that helped shape the many songs Yankovic is known for. Written by both ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic and Eric Appel, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story uses the genre to its fullest, showing just how absurd the many expectations we have for the type of movie do little to tell a true, or accurate, telling of anyone’s life.
While the original Funny or Die sketch was a fun three-minute trailer that gave a hint of the nonsense that could come of such a tale, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story extends this to its inevitable end, with drug lords, jungle action, and even rewriting history to make for a journey into the musical madness that fits the life of Yankovic.
“Blending the insanity of an internet comedy sketch with the music biopic genre, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story deconstructs the life and achievements of Weird Al in ways I could not have imagined.”
Daniel Radcliffe takes on the titular role, bringing the music legend to life in an oddly convincing way. Radcliffe brings a power and energy to the role, delivering even the most ridiculous lines with a conviction that few actors bring to the best Oscar-worthy films. He has evolved since his Harry Potter days, bringing his unique wit, humour, and comedic timing that make him oddly qualified to capture the life and times of Weird Al.
The rest of the cast did a fair job of capturing the many characters that brought Weird Al to prominence, although Evan Rachel Wood and Rainn Wilson are standouts that elevate what could have been a fun romp into something that is a must-see when it finally hits streaming. Evan Rachel Wood’s performance as Madonna is fantastic, and while not all her jokes land, she captures the mannerisms and feel of the queen of pop in a way that is, at times, frightening. I never knew I needed a celebrity love affair between her and Yankovic until now, but that is a celebrity couple I am sad I will never get to experience.
Wilson, on the other hand, is bananas in the role of Dr Demento. As someone who had grown up in the 80s and 90s I had known of the DJ, but it was not until I saw Rainn Wilson eating LSD nachos in a Jacuzzi that I understood why he is the perfect mentor for Yankovic. There are too many unique takes on classic music legends and industry mainstays to touch on this review, and much of the fun is seeing what comedian would take to the screen to bring history to life in yet another absurd way.
Roku has a hit on its hand. While Weird: The Al Yankovic Story does overstay its welcome at times, and some comedy does not land as well as I would like, it is an adventure in madness that is essential viewing for any fans of Weird Al Yankovic and Daniel Radcliffe. TIFF and Midnight Madness are back, and I can think of few films better to usher in that post-pandemic world than Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.