Movie Review: Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

While working for comedy website Funny or Die 12 years ago, Eric Appel made a fake trailer for a biopic about the long-running comedy musician “Weird Al” Yankovic, who wound up airing it during his concerts. This led to many fans asking for the movie to be made for real and the duo eventually developing the short into a feature film. As anyone whose seen one of the several movies made out of Saturday Night Live sketches over the years can attest, the results of expanding a 3-minute bit into a 90-minute-plus film are somewhat of a mixed bag. Luckily, the trailer already fleshed out a good amount of potential plot points, which the end product hews to relatively closely, and the nature of the story allows it to spoof an entire genre.

We are first introduced to a young Alfred Yankovic (Richard Aaron Anderson and David Bloom) growing up in a typical suburban American town. His father (Toby Huss) wants him to follow in his footsteps and get a job at the local factory (the product of which remains a mystery), but Al wants to become “not technically the best, but arguably the most famous accordian player in an extremely specific genre of music.” Knowing this sends his father into fits of rage, but his mother (Julianne Nicholson) ultimately winds up secretly supporting him, though this leads to a strained relationship with his parents.

Once he escapes to college, Al (Daniel Radcliffe) is free to play his accordion as much as he wants but struggles to gain acceptance with the school’s bands. His roommates Steve (Spencer Treat Clark), Jim (Jack Lancaster), and Jon (Tommy O’Brien) are very supportive however, and encourage him to keep at his dream. One day, as the group are hanging out in their apartment, inspiration strikes Al while he is making sandwiches, and he comes up with his first parody tune, “My Bologna” (after The Knack’s “My Sharona”). His friends are awestruck and insist that he record the song, so they head to a public bathroom to get it on tape (one of the few genuinely true bits in the story), and he submits it to a comedy radio show, where it instantly takes off.

From there we get a play on the stereotypical musical biopic formula, following Al through his meteoric rise, to his humbling fall, to his triumphant return. As far as these sorts of things go it mostly plays it pretty safe, with very few swerves into unexpected territory, but those who grew up laughing along to “Weird Al” songs and videos will likely find themselves grinning the whole way through. There aren’t as many laugh-out-loud moments as one would hope, rather Weird elicits a general feeling of amusement, much like Yankovic’s 1989 cult-favorite UHF. Nothing really stands out about Appel’s direction either, but it doesn’t need to as this sort of movie relies almost entirely on the script, which is consistently clever, and the cast, who are all game for whatever silliness is thrown their way, including the lengthy list of celebrity cameos. Radcliffe especially nails the title role, fully committing to the part, while Rainn Wilson as mentor Dr. Demento and Evan Rachel Wood as love interest Madonna also put in memorable performances. Weird may not be perfect, but it’s easily one of 2022’s best comedies and feels like a fittingly ridiculous tribute to a man whose musical career had a greater impact than anyone could have imagined back in 1979. ★★★★

rated tv-14. contains violence, sexual references, drug material, and smoking.

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★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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