If you are looking for the definitive true story of Weird Al Yankovic’s life, you are going to have to look somewhere else. If you are looking for a fun jab at music biopics, akin to 2007’s Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, then you are most certainly in the right place. Although most of the events that take place in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story are purely fictional, writer/director Eric Appel pokes fun at the tropes of the biopic nearly perfectly, while also delivering a story that could only be associated with Weird Al.
The origin of the film stems back to a 2013 Funny or Die sketch of the same name that stars Aaron Paul as the titular man, and although that casting would’ve been amazing to see, Daniel Radcliffe steals the show here. Many of the scenes that are portrayed in the original sketch are seen in the film to great success. The film stars Harry Potter himself, but that doesn’t diminish the rest of the star-studded cast such as Rainn Wilson who plays Weird Al’s mentor, Dr. Demento, and the always wonderful Jack Black for a short cameo as the famous disc jockey, Wolfman Jack. In the original sketch, Patton Oswalt plays Dr. Demento, but in the film, he shows up for a cameo in the biker bar scene where he plays a heckler. There are many other big-name celebrities in the film, which makes for a great time as you look and try to point all of them out.
The weird plot
The opening scene (besides the introduction featuring the real Weird Al telling us that everything in the movie is 100% real) immediately throws the audience into the deep end, showing Weird Al himself having to be defibrillated by a doctor (Lin-Manuel Miranda) in order to kickstart his heart back to life. A grizzly narration is heard from who is supposed to be Weird Al, but it is neither Radcliffe nor Al himself, instead, it is Diedrich Bader from Office Space. That narration immediately gripped me and sucked me into whatever weird version of the “truth” the film wanted to tell. The title card pops on the screen right after, but I was originally thrown off by it as it seems like it was put together in Microsoft word using a standard serif font. Out of all the creative decisions of the movie, that is the one that irked me the most, which should say something as this movie has a very non-conventional style to it.
Speaking of style, there are many bright and loud scenes in this movie that would catch the eyes of anyone watching it, one that stands out to me is the scene where Dr. Demento gives Al some guacamole that is “loaded with LSD.” What comes after is something that I can only describe as a mix of the dream sequence from The Big Lebowski and the adrenochrome scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Even though that scene is certainly the most vibrant in the movie (Al even pops out of an egg covered in goo while playing the electric guitar), cinematographer Ross Riege implements it in a way that perfectly fits the style of the rest of the movie.
There are many other scenes that just go off the wall with their creative liberty, which is something that is great to see in this genre. Sure that movie does get a little wild with how it portrays the lives of music stars, but this just takes it to the next level. I wish I could just ramble on about each scene independently and why I enjoy them, but I think it is best to sit in front of the screen and experience them all for yourself.
The thing that I think takes away from my enjoyment of the movie however is just how predictable the story is. As someone who grew up watching countless Weird Al videos on his grandmother’s Windows 2000 pc, and renting his CDs when my family would go on long car rides, it feels like this could’ve been something more openly in the style of Weird Al. Weird Al is an extremely clever and funny man, and although this film is certainly filled with laughs throughout, I can’t help but think that this movie would work with anyone else. All that would need to be done is just change the names around and take out what few Weird Al songs are included and there you go, you have what is essentially every other biopic parody that has come out in this century.
All it needed was more Weird Al in it. Throughout the entire runtime, Weird Al’s cinematic debut, UHF, is never mentioned once. I understand that there could be licensing issues with studios and such, but never mentioning it once just seems like a huge waste of potential. There was only a clip of the video for “Eat It” but no other videos of his were seen which was a huge disappointment to me. The only thing that really felt truly fresh for this movie was the subplot that is introduced later with Pablo Escobar, which was one of the high points of the film for me, and later ties into the predictable ending.
Sadly not weird enough
Although the movie seemed pretty basic at times, I do feel as though most people who sit down and watch it will walk away pleased as I did. You can just see in the performances from every actor on screen that this was just a fun movie to make, almost like an early 2010s Adam Sandler movie. It just seemed like a bunch of friends got together and made something that would make them laugh. There’s nothing wrong with that approach to filmmaking, after all, art is in the eye of the beholder. The only problem with that is this movie probably won’t appeal to everyone.
Overall, if you’re a diehard Weird Al fan, you might leave disappointed after seeing very few things that happened in the real world referenced besides a couple of songs. I don’t think I will ever forgive this movie for not mentioning UHF. Even though that may be true, it is impossible to avoid the fact that this movie is just plain fun. I have to recommend that people at least give this a shot. From the wonderful performances from Hollywood A-listers to the abnormal editing to the honestly great cinematography, this movie is something that I’m sure everyone will find at least one thing that they enjoy out of it.