Directed by: Eric Appel
Distributed by: The Roku Channel
Written by Alexander Reams
Taking Weird Al Yankovic seriously is quite possibly the best lesson in futility, he has never been serious, if his album covers and demeanor weren’t convincing enough. I got into his music at a young age and have been an avid listener since and when a movie about his life was announced, my interest was toned down by the immediate flashbacks of a slew of music biopics that varied from bland to horrendous, with “Rocketman” and “Spinal Tap” being a few of the highlights. This was all wiped away as the first trailer unfolded, and then the title “Written by Al Yankovic and Eric Appel” appeared, and that said everything- they were making a parody.
Daniel Radcliffe really brought his A-game, continuing to show his versatility as a performer. This is best shown during Al’s first performance at a biker bar, and he appears on stage in his traditional attire of a Hawaiian shirt and his accordion. Of course the heckles come, and the scene plays out like most music biopics. Instead of being bland it sheds self-seriousness and jumps into borderline fantasy with the reactions from the crowd. While this did resonate with me in a tongue-and-cheek way, it also rang hollow because of the underlying parodic nature of the film. Along with Radcliffe is Rainn Wilson as the iconic Dr. Demento, Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna, Quinta Brunson as Oprah Winfrey, Toby Huss and Julianne Nicholson as Al’s parents Nick and Mary Yankovic, and Al himself cameos as a studio executive in a few earlier scenes, and shares these with Will Forte. The cast is stacked, and it’s nice to see a lot of familiar faces in a movie, especially one that’s as out there as this one is. And for all intents and purposes, it is out there, and meta, making fun of all the issues critics have lambasted against in previous biopics, but when it drifts out of parody, reality begins to set in that this isn’t well directed. The scene where Al’s parents tell him he should stop doing what he loves, that’s verbatim by the way, is played very dry, and it works but it also feels disconnected from reality in a way that takes you out of the movie.
Appel is in his debut here and yet seems more confident behind the camera than some seasoned directors, it’s bold and he embraces the strangeness of Weird Al with this reverence for what he did while still making this a comedy first and refraining from the melodramatic plot lines that have plagued those that have come before. However, despite all the goodwill it has in its favor the film is disconnected from reality far more than any of Weird Al’s music and does eventually outstay its welcome despite the fantastic cast and the world-class performance by Daniel Radcliffe cementing that he is not just Harry Potter, he’s Weird Al and Harry Potter.
“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” Trailer