Daniel Radcliffe Parodies the Biopic

Dec 18, 2022

This review was originally part of our coverage for the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.

Fifteen years after Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, musical biopics still haven’t learned their lesson, and if films like Bohemian Rhapsody and this year’s Elvis have proven anything, it’s that this type of film still needs a satire that points out their inherent goofiness and exhausted tropes. There’s no better person for the job than “Weird Al” Yankovic, a man who built his career on parody, and whose personal biopic couldn’t help but be a little, well, weird. Co-written by Yankovic and co-writer/director Eric Appel, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is the “true” story of Yankovic’s life and career, from his rebellious polka party-loving youth to his wild and fast romance with Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood), and all the bologna in between.
Not surprisingly, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is in its prime when it’s lampooning musical biopics at large. Weird begins with a young Yankovic, whose parents Nick and Mary Yankovic (Toby Huss and Julianne Nicholson) believe that it would be best if Al would “stop being who you are, and doing things you love.” Al hides his love for comedy, and his life completely changes when a door-to-door accordion salesman delivers the instrument that will be integral to his success.

Once Al (now played by Daniel Radcliffe) gets to college, and he’s free from his parent’s watchful eyes, he can embrace his love of parody songwriting, turning The Knack’s “My Sharona” into “My Bologna,” and soon becoming a massive overnight musical success, thanks to the assistance of his mentor Dr. Demento (Rainn Wilson). But even though it seems like Al’s star will always shine brightly, he’s confronted with the bad influence of Madonna, the desire to please his parents, and even a trip down to visit Pablo Escobar (Arturo Castro).

Image via Roku Channel

RELATED: ‘UHF’ Is ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic’s Hilarious Time Capsule About A Now-Irrelevant Subject

For the most part, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story plays like a series of sketches centered around the musician’s life, and thankfully, the majority of those sketches work. Timing and facts and truth are all thrown out the window in an attempt to just have fun with the concept, yet Weird still works best when it’s also a parody. For example, one scene features Yankovic proving himself at a Boogie Nights-esque pool party, thrown by Dr. Demento. We’ve seen this type of scene before in biopics, where the newcomer has to prove themselves to his peers, yet here, it’s so gleefully over-the-top, packed with an absurd amount of cameos and jokes that any semblance of reality is completely irrelevant. Spoiling the cameos would take away a major part of Weird’s fun, but pretty much every scene includes at least one surprise appearance, and it never gets old throughout the film’s runtime.

Yet the further Weird: The Al Yankovic Story moves away from the biopic parody, the more it falters. Much of the second act focuses on the relationship between Al and Madonna, and while both Wood and Radcliffe are having a ball in their scenes together, their time together goes in a direction that veers a little too far from the biopic formula. Yes, Madonna is here to represent the inevitable debaucherous downfall of our star, but the path this idea goes down is fun on paper, but never quite goes far enough. This deviation halfway through is also the only time that Weird: The Al Yankovic Story starts to run out of steam and its runtime can be felt. Despite all that, the Al and Madonna’s story is certainly stuff fun, but it does feel like a way for this story to go to an extreme that it never fully embraces—even if it is quite ridiculous.

Image via Roku Channel

But the greatest joy of Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is watching Radcliffe as “Weird Al,” complete with oversized glasses, curly hair, and Hawaiian shirts. Radcliffe is completely game for…whatever the hell this is, but also shows a true love for Yankovic’s work and career, and a true appreciation for this comedic legend. This appreciation for Yankovic permeates all of this film’s performances, from Wood’s corrupting presence to Huss and Nicholson absolutely nailing the uncertain parental figures looking down on their son’s choice in career. This might be a parody, sure, but it also feels like an exuberant appreciation of this man and his comedic brilliance. What better way to honor Al than to be a little weird?

Throughout Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, Al says that he might not be the best accordion player, but he might just be the most famous accordion player in an extremely specific genre of music. Weird might not be the best biopic parody (Walk Hard still holds that crown), but it is an absolutely charming and often hilarious look at the world’s greatest parody musician, packed with an excellent cast that wants to pay tribute to this weird man. Weird dares to be stupid and succeeds because of it.

Rating: B

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story comes to The Roku Channel on November 4.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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