Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (2022) | Movie Review

There’s something magical about a parody of a song that we love, or even one we hate. It’s the audacity to be uncool, especially when that uncoolness is immediately contrasted with something that culture has already deemed cool, or at least popular; lyrics about bologna meat over tight power pop chords. But what really makes parody songs so intriguing is that we’re able to peer inside the creative mind of the person who dares to transmute it; a person who has food and societal curiosities on the brain instead of drugs, alcohol, or getting laid.

For Weird Al Yankovic, those irreverent topics congealed themselves into a persona of the musical genius himself. And over the past 40 years, Weird Al hasn’t just become the undisputed king of parody music, but synonymous with the genre perhaps more than any respective musician has been in his or her own craft. Maybe one day there will be a biopic that tells his story more earnestly, but for now, it makes sense that the one he co-wrote with Eric Appel (who also directs), titled Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, is a parody itself.

Set in an alternate universe where polka is sexy and forbidden like rock music in the ‘50s, Weird, based on Appel’s short from 2010, follows Yankovic (Daniel Radcliffe) from his first intrigue into the wacky, listening to Dr. Demento under his covers so his parents wouldn’t find out, all the way through his early rise to fame in the ‘80s. Along the way, he dates Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood), crashes Pablo Escobar’s birthday party, and does LSD with Demento (Rainn Wilson) in a jacuzzi.

Of course, most of the movie is completely fictional, playing as a spoof on rock biopics and the dramatization they often resort to for the sake of interest and raising eyebrows. Somewhat still standing is the factual architecture of the musician’s life, such as the acquisition of his first accordion from a door-to-door salesman or the recording of his first single in a public bathroom. However, the rest of it plays out as an antithesis of biographical fiction and the figures that inhabit it.

Amidst an industry laden with checkered pasts and drug abuse, Weird Al has always been completely clean. Yet, the film turns him into a petulant diva with anger issues and a toxic ego. It’s that very obvious dichotomy that helps celebrate the greatness of its subject matter the most.

Without being burdened by faithfulness to facts, the movie finds a freedom for comedy, a breakneck pace, and laser focus. The only time it becomes derailed is during an overlong tangent surrounding the Weird Al and Madonna’s relationship. It’s the only time we forget that the film is supposed to play as an actual rock biopic and not a Will Ferrell comedy circa 2006.

Guided by the ethos of Alfred E. Neuman, Weird is deceptively daring with its sendup and self-reference, poking fun at celebrities and archetypes, and sparing no one, including the titular star himself. It’s all a reminder of how ballsy and outlandish Weird Al has always been despite his jolly and anodyne disposition. What other movie would have the gall to stage a pool party scene with Dr. Demento rivaling with Wolfman Jack (Jack Black), while caricatured icons such as Frank Zappa, Elvira, Pee-wee Herman (not Paul Reubens), Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, DEVO, Alice Cooper, Gallagher, John Deacon, and Tiny Tim stand around egging them on?

Perhaps too reminiscent of other more successful films, fluctuating between the sincerity of the Muppet Movie to the myopic reverence of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure to the structure of a similar rock biopic spoof, Walk Hard. However, as a parody, Weird actually has some emotional payoffs in a way most other won’t. Another highlight is the brand-new song that plays after the final scene, narrating the credits as they roll by.

The most impressive part of it all is how straight the tone is played, feeling just as much like an earnest biopic as it does a ridiculous takeoff. And yet, like Al’s music, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is all in good fun, genuinely aiming to entertain without being encumbered by the sanctimony and social commentary of most modern cinema. Rather, the viewing experience is endlessly eminently enjoyable in the way that comedies always used to be, and like its subject matter (somehow) still remains.

Twizard Rating: 89

*Originally published at https://www.popzara.com/movies/vod-reviews/weird-the-al-yankovic-story-2022/

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