Yankovic’s life is void of the “rise and fall” dramas of so many musicians. The performer didn’t have a hard life and never fell prey to drugs and alcohol and wild sex with groupies. So, what does one do? Make up wild stories of drugs and sex and guns, creating a broad comedy that goes to great lengths to stretch the truth.
Unfortunately, Eric Appel’s film (co-written with Yankovic) doesn’t know when to quit and wears out its unique welcome long before it should.
For its promising opening, we meet Yankovic’s parents (Toby Huss and Julianne Nicholson doing fine work). Dad is a blue-collar bully while Mom is a flake. Both are opposed to their son’s desire to be a musician. Of course, the gag is how supportive Weird Al’s actual parents were.
A very funny moment that parodies clichéd biopic abuse scenes, finds young Al discovering the accordion from a door-to-door salesman Thomas Lennon) who is then beaten down by Al’s poppa.
Another great joke is how a high school aged Yankovic sneaks out of his house to attend a late-night Polka party, where his skill on the accordion rears its head.
The fun and laughter continue as we follow Al to college, where he writes his song parodies and comes alive as a performer, sending him on the quest for a record deal from the disapproving Scotti Brothers (played by Will Forte and ‘Weird Al’ himself).
As his star rises, the absurdity increases. ‘Weird Al’ becomes the biggest star in the music world, guided by famed radio D.J. Dr. Demento (a wonderful Rainn Wilson). He is introduced at a party full of people who would never attend the same party together. Wolfman Jack, Pee-Wee Herman, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Frank Zappa, Gallagher, and the Rock group Queen’s bassist all challenge Yankovic’s “genius” until he proves himself on the spot.
‘Weird Al’ writes his hit song “Eat It” BEFORE Michael Jackson writes “Beat It”. Madonna takes him on as a lover in a wild, raucous, sexual adventure. Finally, he becomes the favorite artist of Pablo Escobar, which leads to a Rambo-esque (and much too long) sequence where Yankovic lays waste to most of the Columbian drug cartel.
Overloaded, to be sure, and it is the weight of its own pride that ultimately crushes the film. Appel and Yankovic are having so much fun, they don’t know when to quit.
As Yankovic, Daniel Radcliffe fails to pull it off. He doesn’t really look like the performer and is too short. The actor doesn’t get his voice down and, while Radcliffe is certainly having a great time in the musical sequences, it is the actual ‘Weird Al’ who does the singing.
Perhaps the reality of Radcliffe’s miscasting is another part of the gag, keeping with the parody style. Whatever the reason, the actor doesn’t work.
Rainn Wilson is a blast as Dr. Demento and enhances his already crazy demeanor with some pointed comedic ticks. His character’s presence is always welcome.
The real surprise is Evan Rachel Wood’s terrific turn as Madonna. While completely spoofing through the performance, Wood all but becomes the singer. The actress looks, moves, and sounds just like her, becoming the highlight of the film.
“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” began life as a phony trailer on the comedic website Funny or Die. It featured Yankovic (played by Aaron Paul) as a power-mad egomaniac. In only a few short minutes, the trailer was able to get in all the jokes found in the feature length film, and it is much sharper and funnier. There was no need to stretch it out to almost two hours.
While clever, Appel and Yankovic’s feature film begins to crumble, spinning its wheels until becoming frustratingly repetitive.
While I laughed hard in the beginning, after a while I just wanted it to end.
Yankovic is a bright and funny guy. “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” is a bright and funny film… for about 30 minutes.
Weird: The Al Yakovic Story
Written by Eric Appel & ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic
Directed by Eric Appel
TV-14, 108 Minutes, Funny or Die Films/ Tango Entertainment