Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (2022)

“Live the life you want to live. Be as weird as you wanna be. You will never find true happiness until you can accept who you truly are.”

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story like the generational recording artist this biopic is based on is here to flip the script and create controllable unexpected chaos for the generic formula films in the genre tend to follow. Once and a while there comes an artist who doesn’t follow the set path to success that countless others have before. A new sound is created, one that encapsulates a generation of listeners who feel understood because of the artist and the artist attached becomes forever immortalized by their ingenuity in being the breath of fresh air to an industry that is fearful of staying stagnant.

Cover songs and derivatives of songs have existed since music has been recorded and published, it’s the most lucrative option for a songwriter to make money in a constantly evolving industry. But song parodies, only one man has been brave enough to take existing popular songs and change the lyrics to them, creating an entirely new recording keeping the same beats. A songwriting genius if the music industry ever knew one. That man is Alfred Matthew Yankovic aka ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic (Daniel Radcliffe). Even if you aren’t a fan of his music, his songs are well known. His style and influence has reach well beyond his hardcore fans and contribution to the music industry.

As I’ve mentioned once or twice, my career in the music industry has centered around publishing licensing, rights and royalties. Mostly handling cover songs and derivatives for most of my career, Weird Al’s use of the songs he parodies follows the correct legal protocol of acquiring the licenses and permission from the copyright holders. Being a professional in this industry, Weird Al’s brain is fascinating in coming up with parodies that keep the same structure of the original version but making it his own, weird creation. Of course, the original artist has to be ok with one of their popular songs being reworked. I can’t imagine “Amish Paradise” going over well with Coolio once he heard the final product.

There comes a moment in Weird when Al comes up with “Eat It” (obviously a parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”) but the artist claims it’s an original while “Beat it” is the parody. By this time, the joke of the film directed by Eric Appel and co-written by Appel and Al Yankovic is made abundantly clear. The two have parodied the biopic. And it works on every level. Of course, depending on the viewer, the joke would like to have landed sooner rather than later in the narrative.

When Al was a boy (Richard Arron Anderson, David Bloom), his father Nick (Toby Huss) desperately tries to force Al to follow in his path, work at a factory that makes unnamed products and not parody songs like “Amazing Grace” or play the accordion. Nick Yankovic would rather kill Al’s ideas before they become dreams, so Al doesn’t get discouraged. Unsupervised Polka parties become the secrets kids hide from their parents instead of underage drinking and drug use. Forbidden to play the accordion, Al’s mom Mary (Julianne Nicholson) buys the instrument in secrecy for Al to be his weird self. After coming up with “My Bologna” with his roommates / band mates Steve Jay (Spencer Treat Clark), Kimo (Jack Lancaster), and Bermuda (Tommy O’Brien)and mailing the song into Dr. Demento (Rainn Wilson), ‘Weird Al’ becomes an instant overnight success story.

Following that, when the inspiration strikes, Al comes up with “I Love Rocky Road”, on a whim “Another One Rides the Bus” in front of John Deacon of Queen and after an alcoholic induced joyride “Like a Surgeon” for girlfriend Madonna’s (Evan Rachel Wood) ‘Yankovic Bump’. Weird thrives on the fringes of absurdity playing to the artist’s signature style of staying true to yourself and being as weird as humanly possible. Individuality and not conforming to societal norms is what we should all strive to be. Al has made it part of his identity so it can’t possibly be that difficult to be weird, right?

Weird starts like any old biopic but quickly zags when it’s supposed to zig, going right off the deep end, steering into the lunacy that only the mind of ‘Weird Al’ can imagine. Featured throughout the unexaggerated retelling of Al’s life is a number of actual life events and accomplishments including some rare looks into fans of Al’s that the public just would never have known about if this film didn’t exist. Unexpected as it is, Weird is sure to delight with its inherent wackiness coming off as one the best comedies of 2022 and the new decade for that matter. Every scene is full of unpredictable surprises from the narrative to the cameos that make a playful appearance in Al’s rise to fame.

Clocking in at 108 minutes Weird moves at a brisk pace, unapologetic in its choices, fully embracing its charm and desire to stand out from the crowd of carbon copies. Anchored by its lead performance In Daniel Radcliffe, the initial reaction may have been less favorable but like the real-life counterpart, Radcliffe uses his underdog odds to his advantage.

The only criticism I have with Weird is the decision to not let Radcliffe sing the songs. He has the talent and can rap the alphabet effortlessly, but Al was the voice when the songs kicked on after each epiphany. Post Harry Potter Radcliffe has become more than his franchise role, turning in quite a career full of unique roles. Playing ‘Weird Al’ and making it his own comes close to portraying a farting corpse alongside Paul Dano. When paired with Evan Rachel Wood, the two are a dynamic duo on screen, their chemistry and sexual tension reaching unspeakable levels.

Though it may not be the biopic fans of ‘Weird Al’ expected or wanted but it’s perfectly suitable to the persona he created when first parodying popular songs. If it wasn’t for the Roku Channel, Weird might have had a better chance at being discovered by a wider audience. It’s streaming home became its demise, holding it back from an adoring audience singing along with some of his greatest hits that were clearly all originals and not parodies.

Screenplay By: Al Yankovic & Eric Appel

Directed By: Eric Appel

Music By: Leo Birenberg & Zach Robinson

Cinematography: Ross Riege

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Evan Rachel Wood, Rainn Wilson, Toby Huss, Julianne Nicholson, Spencer Treat Clark, Jack Lancaster, Tommy O’Brien, Weird Al Yankovic

Where to Watch: The Roku Channel

Release Date: November 4, 2022

Running Time: 1 Hour 48 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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