In a time when biopics feel like their own Oscar Bait Cinematic Universe, Weird Al Yankovic’s parody biopic, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, gives us a reality check. Of course, I use the word “reality” loosely, as this film exaggerates its title character’s life story to absurdist proportions. The Weird Al movie leans happily into every biopic trope there ever was in order to give us an epically fun cinematic experience.
Premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival’s first Midnight Madness screening (where, contrary to popular belief, Rian Johnson‘s amazing Glass Onion did not have its world premiere), Weird: The Al Yankovic Story hits the ground running from its first few minutes. It tells a succinct origin story of a kid who had a knack for polka and all things weird. The script gets the message across sans the usual biopic melodrama, using dialogue that has no time for subtleties, yet is still engaging. Just as Weird Al’s music pokes fun at pop culture, so does the movie about his life. And striking a balance between intentionally literal conversations and comedic timing may sound like it verges on the impossible – but, to my great surprise, it works well in this deliberately imbalanced life story.
Daniel Radcliffe is unsurprisingly phenomenal in a witty comedic role, embodying the parody artist with great joy. His charisma shines in every scene; Radcliffe even holds his own when he shares the screen with a few surprise comedic legends. Toby Huss is exceptional in his small role as Al’s typically unsupportive father, riffing perfectly off of Radcliffe’s performance. The film’s comedic range, from sharp-tongued dialogue to classic physical slapstick, is pure pleasure and gives Radcliffe all the opportunity for laughs any ensemble could ever want. Many moments are even cartoonish, as (appropriately) childish humor is not beyond Weird‘s limits.
A surprise standout is Evan Rachel Wood, who wholeheartedly embraces her role as a sociopathic Madonna clawing for greater fame through Weird Al’s parodies. During the premiere’s Q&A, Wood described studying for the role, saying that although the movie and her part are parody, she still “wanted it to be good.” Her commitment reverberates throughout the entire cast, proving that delivering even the silliest of stories requires dedication and well thought-out performances.
Of course, the cast’s performances are as good as they are in part thanks to the material they have to work with. Weird Al himself collaborated closely with the filmmakers, lending a unique, genuine feel – something that’s especially evident given his co-writing credit with director Eric Appel. Every scene is brimming with snappy jokes; when strung together, they tell an eccentric life story that at times feels exaggerated only slightly beyond real life’s absurdities. The 2000s-era humor shines through in the third act, when the Weird Al movie falls deep into a nostalgic comedy rabbit hole akin to the likes of Tropic Thunder and Anchorman. Appel and Yankovic manage to pull off the transition without being offensive; in fact, many of the jokes are pretty wholesome in nature, even surprisingly so.
Despite its relatively niche story, this eccentric biopic has all the marks of being a classic. If you aren’t necessarily a Weird Al fan: neither am I, but Weird: The Al Yankovic Story was still a delight to see in a theater. With all of this film’s crazy twists and turns, it’s best to go in as blind as possible, and just let the weirdness take you on a journey.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story had its world premiere at the 47th Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2022. It will premiere on the Roku channel on November 4, 2022. The film is directed by Eric Appel and stars Daniel Radcliffe, Evan Rachel Wood, Rainn Wilson, Toby Huss, and ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic.