February 8, 2023

Film Review: Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

5 Stars
By Joseph Beyer | Nov. 19, 2022

You don’t need to be familiar with every hit in the canon of bizarro songs that combine pop with counterculture in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story in order to enjoy it, but if you are, this might become one of the favorite films of your Gen-X life.

That’s not just because it’s an explosion of so many comedic Easter egg cameos you could make a magic omelet, but also because Yankovic and his merry band of pranksters have created an incredibly sweet and original flip on the tropes and genre of biopics. Rather than mere parody, it’s as close to a singular fingerprint as cinematically possible.

The story of a rise (or fall—it’s hard to decipher) to fame begins where all historical biographies are obliged to: with the childhood beginnings of the subject, Al Yankovic. He’s just your average polka-loving American rebel born to parents who can’t understand his quirky fascination with radio comedy, Mad magazines, and vibrant, multi-colored Hawaiian shirts…all of which he’s forced to literally hide in his closet until fate forces him to fight back against his family and chase his dreams, wherever they may lead.

If, at this early point in the 1 hour and 48 minute comedy available free through Roku, you are not laughing out loud in WTF curiosity, you can turn it off with no financial regrets. Hang on, and you will be rewarded with a narrative that not only celebrates the actual creativity of its subject, but becomes a mantra for weirdness and creativity itself.

The film’s second act welcomes actor Daniel Radcliffe to the story taking over as Al, and it’s hard to overstate just how much of the film belongs to him. He not only perfectly portrays the hero from here on, but goes head to head with the real Yankovic on-screen in a Fellini-esque Metaverse that almost makes them one in the same body.

With encouragement from friends, Al slowly learns to play his accordion proudly, and, in fits of manic genius, starts replacing the lyrics to famous songs with those that make him laugh. (And, as he sees it, makes them “better.”)

The world agrees, and with early hits like “My Bologna” to the tune of “My Sharona” and the profound redux of Queen’s “Another One Rides the Bus,” Al’s star begins a global rise and ultimately changes the course of musical history forever.

Hollywood comes calling quickly, and you’ll now experience dozens of delightful performances in quick succession introduced through the trials and tribulations of a real-life career that truly did sell over 12 million albums, earned five Grammy wins, and created the signature “Yankovic Bump” for artists he parodied.

Now wildly famous, Weird Al must navigate the age-old battle between art and business while also crossing paths with the rich and powerful: Madonna, Pablo Escobar, Oprah, Wolfman Jack, Andy Warhol, Peewee Herman, and a dirty rivalry with Michael Jackson, just to name a few.

Director Eric Appel’s inspired mashup was co-written by Yankovic, but will sadly not be eligible for Oscar nominations as a result of forgoing theatrical distribution. One can hope the Emmys recognize the genius of singing along to Yankovic’s words of other people’s music and give the project the awards love it deserves.

The film is free to watch exclusively at therokuchannel.com or through any Roku devices. Includes teen angst, adult language, accidental drug use, sexual tension involving gum, hairy chests, and a soundtrack of polka hits performed on the devil’s squeezebox.

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