Released: 4th November
Seen: 6th November
If there is any genre that would be on my dislike pile it would be the biopic, after all despite each one being about a very different artist, they all end up being the same. A traumatic childhood, hard-fought battle to get a recording contract, a surprise hit, lots of drugs, more hits, more drugs, more hits while doing more drugs culminating in a massive meltdown during a very important concert and redemption set to the tune of one of the most famous songs of that performer’s career.
It’s a framework that’s so well known it applies to films like Rocketman, Elvis, Bohemian Rhapsody and The United States VS Billie Holiday all are just some recent examples of biopics that fall into this pattern and only one of those films is actually worth watching (go watch Rocketman, you will not regret it). It’s a genre that’s also ripe for parody because it has such strong easily mockable tropes… Ok, it needs ANOTHER parody, it’s been like 15 years since Walk Hard so someone needs to take another shot at the genre.
Weird: The Al Yankovich Story tells the absolutely true with no exaggerations story of Al Yankovich (Daniel Radcliffe), a boy with a dream like any other. His dream is to write lyrics to other people’s songs and play the accordion while doing it, a dream that his factory-working father rejects and mocks. It doesn’t stop little Al though who grows up and starts sending out his songs to producers and radio hosts, eventually getting the attention of Dr Demento (Rainn Wilson) who plays one of Yankovich’s songs and turns him into an overnight sensation.
As Al rises to fame, adopting the completely sensible moniker of Weird Al Yankovich, it soon emerges that if Yankovich parodies an artist’s music that artist sees a dramatic bump in sales… this gets the attention of young ingenue Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood) who will do whatever it takes to get that parody and that Yankovich bump, even if she has to seduce it out of the polka parody performer.
Weird: The Al Yankovich Story is, almost objectively, one of the silliest movies to ever be committed to celluloid. From start to finish, this thing is absolutely wall-to-wall stupidity and every second of it is just perfection. This is a film that knows exactly what it’s doing and the tone it’s aiming for and it nails it from the jump. It gracefully dances on the line of absurdity, playing all the key points one expects from a biopic except the film turns all of them up to 11 and throws a madman right in the centre of the film.
Moments that would be dramatic in any other biopic, such as an abusive parent breaking their child’s musical instrument of choice, are rendered hilarious when it’s Weird Al with his famous curly hair and the instrument is an accordion. This happens repeatedly, moments that would be dramatic are flipped just by who they’re happening to… until Weird: The Al Yankovich Story gets to the third act and turns everything up to “Bonkers” level and it becomes surreal comic art in the best possible way.
It’s very easy to say “This film is funny from start to finish” but it’s very rarely actually true… Weird: The Al Yankovich Story is literally funny from the second it starts to the second the credits are finished rolling, every chance it can either throw out a pointed jab at the genre or a joke about Weird Al’s career or just have someone do some slapstick, it will do it and do it with gusto. It also has the patience to slowly build the insanity, indeed the start of the movie might almost be able to pass for a normal biopic with a few hilarious lines here and there but slowly everything gets weirder and weirder until you’re holding your sides and laughing endlessly while wondering just where this film is going to go.
At the helm of Weird: The Al Yankovich Story is the genuinely fantastic performance by Daniel Radcliffe who absolutely demolishes as Weird Al. It’s the perfect parody of a biopic performance, overly serious and clearly trying so hard to mimic the mannerisms of the person being portrayed but there’s just enough of a twist on it to make it hilarious. It’s a completely serious performance that never winks at the audience while also being so gloriously absurd that it just works. Everything from the impeccable timing to the pointed decision to not even bother trying to hide Dan’s natural accent is a hilarious smart choice that elevates the material.
Dan’s performance is especially good any time he shares a scene with Evan Rachel Wood, who is honestly so good they should just hire her for the actual Madonna biopic. Together they absolutely destroy, able to pull off a few moments of actual emotion between the almost unending laughter. They not only just bounce off each other effortlessly but there’s a surprising amount of chemistry, enough to make the relationship between Al and Madonna feel somewhat believable (at least as believable as anything can be in this totally not-made-up story).
Weird: The Al Yankovich Story is nothing short of brilliant, a pointed mockery of a stale genre that delivers endless laughs, brilliant performances and even some moments of sincerity thrown in as a treat. It’s the exact kind of biopic that Weird Al deserves, one that blends witty comedy with polka music without skimping on anything. Even at its most chaotic and weird, it all works spectacularly. You will be laughing right up until the credits start rolling, and then you will undoubtedly be joining the rest of us in demanding this epic film get the awards love that it’s clearly entitled to. Biopics have needed this kind of ribbing for a while and thank the lord for Weird Al, the exact right icon to deliver it.