his film was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival
It rarely pains me to pen a negative review of a film that I genuinely didn’t like, but it’s difficult to admit that “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” is a massive disappointment. As a lifelong ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic fan (I own all of his albums and have seen him live in concert, internationally, more than any other artist in my lifetime), it’s fair to say that my expectations were high. In what should’ve been a slam-dunk for devotees of one of the world’s most famous accordion players, director and co-writer Eric Appel‘s lampoon of Weird Al’s life (and the biopic genre in general) over-promises and under-delivers.
Inspired by the hilarious “Funny or Die” mock movie trailer from 2013, “Weird” claims to tell the life story of the musician with a blend of truths, half-truths, and flat-out lies (no, he never had an intimate relationship with Madonna). The first part of the film is also where you’ll find the most laugh-out-loud moments, with a young Al hiding his accordion from his parents and sneaking out to illicit polka parties in high school.
There are some truly inspired comedic scenes which are replaced with a forced, ridiculous, fictionalized plot as the story grows outrageously far-fetched. The funniest thing about the movie is thinking about the handful of audience members who believe this story is 100% true and real, and that’s one of the film’s biggest problems.
Daniel Radcliffe is terrific as Al, with an appropriate goofy swagger that plays well off of his co-stars (including Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna and Rainn Wilson as a pitch-perfect version of Dr. Demento). The film is brilliantly cast from top to bottom.
Appel pads the film with insider winks and Easter eggs for diehard fans and lends an appropriate tongue-in-cheek demeanor with a heavy dose of sarcasm that had me laughing out loud and even cheering early on (one of the most memorable bits is the supposed origin of Al’s parody of “My Sharona” by the The Knack, “My Bologna,” which is so well done that I start to chuckle just by thinking about it).
It’s when the story turns away from the golden nuggets of quick-witted, nerdy humor that is appreciated by Weird Al fans that the film runs out of steam. It barely survives by plodding along with an outrageous and ridiculous storyline (including a parade of mostly unsuccessful celebrity cameos from Yankovic cohorts like Thomas Lennon, Patton Oswalt, Jack Black, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, and an evil version of Madonna that seems funny on paper but becomes a tired, one-note gag) that isn’t sustainable for the long haul. In the simplest terms, it works until it doesn’t.
It seems like nobody involved with “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” knew how they wanted to end it, so they threw everything they could at their story with fingers crossed that something would stick. Some things find success, but it’s mostly dumb. Al, and his fans, deserved better than this.
By: Louisa Moore