- Hamish Hart
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (2023) Review
The eccentric and, of course, weird mind of Weird Al Yankovic is on full display in the singer's long-awaited biopic which fails to tell a coherent story in all the right ways by doing for the music biopic what he himself did for the music industry: twist it on its head, tell a funny joke, and in some cases, improve it.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story tells the completely true story of how Al Yankovic (Daniel Radcliffe) rose from obscurity to become the world's most successful artist. From his revolutionary parody music to his tumultuous relationship with Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood), the biopic leaves no stone unturned as all truths are revealed: even if some of them may not be 100% accurate.
Confusion has been raised regarding the film's legitimacy as a biopic and what parts throughout the fabricated true story are fictional or not. While majority of the movie is not true, many key plot elements did in fact occur: Weird Al first signed with The Scotti Brothers, Madonna did suggest he parody her hit song "Like A Virgin", his first record "My Bologna" was recorded in a public bathroom, and he received his accordion from a travelling salesman. Everything else though didn't happen. Under ordinary circumstances this would cause unprecedented controversy, but with Weird Al at helm it comes together to create the perfect mix of sincerity and absurdity, all while telling a touching story that only feels disingenuous when its trying to be funny. And when its trying to be funny, it ends up being hysterical.
Ever since his debut single released 40 years ago, Yankovic has made a name for himself by creating abstract forms of entertainment through parody songs. Changing the lyrics of popular singles launched the young polka musician into the stratosphere of success, with artists like Michael Jackson, Queen, and most importantly Madonna, being impressed by his ludicrous renditions. All of this information is not-so subtlety illustrated in the movie by having Yankovic convinced he created his parodies before the originals came out. This becomes a running gag in the movie; a gag which becomes a tiny bit overbearing towards the conclusion. Thankfully other jokes are squeezed in to make up for the redundancy of some farces. Interactions between his family and band members create hilarious bits of dialogue due to their insanity, while scenes with Madonna and other celebrities stand out for their satirical takes on Hollywood's most elite.
Daniel Radcliffe's depiction of the legendary spoof artist is over-the-top in all the right ways. Weird Al handpicked Radcliffe for this biopic and it truly shows as his mannerisms and commitment to the craziness enhances a performance that could have been offbeat with the rest of the movie. Rachel Wood portrays an exaggerated version of Madonna which definitely works for this film, and while Wood does a wonderful job, her obnoxious character feels like something that was supposed to be sprinkled in for a couple of funny scenes and be humorous in small doses. But when you have her be the central plot point for over half the film, her hyperbolic humour quickly becomes near-insufferable, dampening what would otherwise have been a marvellous third act. Don't get me wrong: there are certainly many scenes in the final act which work in Madonna's favour, but the plot's over-reliance on her ultimately works against it.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is much more than a mixed bag; more like a mixed wheelbarrow if you ask me. There is alot to love in this music biopic parody. From the film's riveting opening to its action-packed conclusion, the mind of Weird Al is showcased in all the right ways. For those searching for a serious story about the singer's rise to the top, I'd re-evaluate whether you're actually a Weird Al fan because if you were expecting anything other than a ludicrous, heart-filled comedic romp, then be like the singer himself and dare to be stupid.