A fiercely dedicated Weird Al movie starring Daniel Radcliffe demonstrates an outstanding commitment to being stupid. Eric Appel, a comedian and TV writer, created a parody trailer for “Weird Al” Yankovic’s nonexistent biopic for the website Funny or Die in 2010. In the following a dozen years, Yankovic began showing the movie while changing into different costumes at his live performances.
The audience enjoyed it, and many asked when the movie would be released. A feature-length satire that imagines the rise of the accordion-squeezing phenomenon as a combination of an uplifting showbiz biopic and a twisted action thriller was produced by Appel and Yankovic, with Yankovic serving as co-screenwriter and director more than ten years later. Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, which debuts on Friday on the free, ad-supported streaming service the Roku Channel, is a fittingly silly homage to its subject and co-creator: a film parody about the life of a parodist.
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However, it outstays its welcome for a dull stretch midway through. Early on, a young Al (Richard Aaron Anderson, playing the role of a preteen) shocks his religious parents, Toby Huss and Julianne Nicholson, by making up new lyrics to “Amazing Grace” at the dinner table: “Amazing grapes/ How sweet the juice… “Al is forced to follow his passion in secret after his strict father labels writing new lyrics for well-known songs “confusing and evil”—until, during a teenage polka party, he (now played by David Bloom) stuns his bullies with a shredding accordion solo.
FYI, #WEIRDTheAlYankovicStory starts streaming TONIGHT at midnight (in every time zone). Available for FREE on @therokuchannel in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the UK. (Other countries hopefully coming soon!)
— Al Yankovic (@alyankovic) November 3, 2022
Al (played from this point forward by Daniel Radcliffe) and his three idiot roommates soon start a band and become overnight sensations in the music industry. In the fictionalized version of pop history presented in this film, Yankovic’s parodies outsell the hits they mock, and famous performers beg him to record cover versions of their songs to advance their careers.
One of the film’s high points is a poolside industry party hosted by Al’s real-life mentor, the radio host Dr Demento (Rainn Wilson), which features ’80s icons like Gallagher (Paul F. Tompkins), Pee-wee Herman (Jorma Taccone), and the growly-voiced DJ Wolfman Jack (a hilarious Jack Black). The party concludes with Al’s impromptu performance of his classic Queen parody “Another One.
In recent years, Radcliffe has remade himself as a humorous actor with a keen sense for the eccentric parts that suit him: Before the directing team known as the Daniels scored a surprise hit with this year’s Everything Everywhere All at Once, Daniel Radcliffe starred in their debut movie, Swiss Army Man, as the farting corpse named in the title.
His supporting role as an absurdly entitled tech billionaire was one of the highlights of this year’s The Lost City. The guy playing Al needs honesty and kindness in addition to comedic skills for Weird’s fragile idea to remain hilarious for an hour and 40 minutes—which, to its credit, it very nearly accomplishes.
— Al Yankovic (@alyankovic) November 3, 2022
In his words, Al’s unwavering ambition to become “maybe not technically the best, but arguably the most famous accordion player in an extraordinarily narrow form of music” is somehow sold to us by Radcliffe, who commits himself wholeheartedly to the role.
Weird at moments resembles the 1980s comedy empire of the Zucker brothers, makers of Airplane! and the Naked Gun trilogy, in its happy contempt for the facts of Yankovic’s life and music history—not to mention any rules of logic. This setting is appropriate for the fictitious biopic of a character who appears in all three Naked Gun films.
It’s also well-trodden comic ground, which can sometimes work against this film. Thanks to Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping and Walk Hard, audiences are accustomed to the joke-a-minute parody of the bathos-filled Behind the Music template. Walk Hard is still the Citizen Kane of fake-musician biopics.
The movie’s frantic opening hour settles when Al falls for a crafty Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood), who seduces him to advance her career by persuading him to spoof one of her songs. Due to this liaison, the couple then finds themselves in a shootout with Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar (Arturo Castro).
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, co-written by the accordion-squeezing phenom himself, is a fitting match of genre to subject: a music-biopic parody about a pop-song parodist. It’s no Walk Hard (what is?), but Daniel Radcliffe gets an A+ for total commitment. https://t.co/CBG6ft2IPD
— Dana Stevens (@thehighsign) November 3, 2022
This scene of the film leaves the audience with bad taste due to the excessive violence and implicit sexism in Madonna’s portrayal as a femme fatale who pours alcohol down the throat of the defenceless Al. Although Madonna is the only female character in the film besides Al’s mother, it has the unfortunate effect of reinforcing misogynistic stereotypes as much as it does mocking them.
This subplot attempts to parody the cliché of the “bad influence” in show business biopics rather than a dig at the Material Girl herself. With a hilariously stupid onstage performance of the Coolio parody “Amish Paradise” and a pivotal sequence at a music awards event, Weird redeems itself in the last act (with Prince in the audience crossing his fingers in the hope of winning the prize that goes to the triumphant Al).
#WeirdTheAlYankovicStory had Daniel Radcliffe performing on set, Evan Rachel Wood doing an hilarious take on Madonna, and much more madness.
I talked to the cast and director!
— BD (@BrandonDavisBD) November 4, 2022
A record executive who was once dubious but is now in awe of Yankovic is in the audience (who also appears as himself in an outlandish end-credit sequence that engages in a Tarantino-esque rewriting of pop history).
Al gives his audience some advice during his acceptance speech, telling them to “live the life you want. Be however eccentric you want to be. It’s a rare display of honesty from the heart and a good blueprint for living, concluding a film that leaves few opportunities for a joke untapped.