Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is deeply silly. Some may even argue that it’s straight-up stupid. But to presume — or to even want — this film to be anything else is a disrespect to the man it pays homage to. In a surprise to no one, the “biopic” of the parody singer Weird Al is itself a parody of modern musical biopic conventions. It lovingly mocks films like Rocketman or Bohemian Rhapsody and their light fare, with a sanitized approach that often goes for conventional structure and kiddie gloves when presenting even the heavier side of rock and roll, due to the powers that be inevitably wanting to maintain shiny images for the stars at the center.
If only there was a term equivalent to “mockumentary” in terms of what we are seeing here in Weird. It has all the dressings of a biopic turned into not just over-dramatization or narrativization, but complete, purposeful, gloriously ridiculous falsehood.
When we meet him in his youth, Weird Al (Daniel Radcliffe) is a kid with dreams of making it big as an accordion player in a niche genre, longing to create new, silly words for pre-existing songs — a practice that enrages his father, who beats the shit out of a man selling accordions door-to-door to teach his son a lesson and shuts down Al’s attempts to sing his early parodies like “Amazing Grapes.”
Despite this ridiculous “troubled” childhood section of his past, the vast majority of Weird Al’s “story” shows a completely easy rise to fame. Everyone loves him and wants him, and the few that don’t are quickly humiliated by his amazing parodic powers; he is immediately obscenely wealthy, famous, and adored. Al’s brief stumbles in public light are impossibly unserious and easy to resolve, such as his challenges from alcohol and an ill-intentioned girlfriend — specifically a conniving, sexy, and equally ridiculous Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood). As he reaches his brief and ridiculous rock bottom, he stumbles about on stage, shirtless and spitting alcohol like a goofy Mick Jagger.
All of this is made so wonderful by Radcliffe’s performance — he presents an earnest commitment to both Weird Al and the extremely silly cinematic universe they have created for him.
Loaded with absurd cameos from contemporary comedians disguised as famous people from a slew of historical eras — Andy Warhol (Conan O’Brien), Salvador Dali (Emo Philips), Pee-Wee Herman (Jorma Taccone), and Divine (Nina West) all are gathered at the same inexplicable pool party — Weird’s presentation of a rise to fame is absurd and intangible, not based in story as much as it is a collection of tropes being fooled with and poked fun at.
This is entirely the case up until around the midway point, when Weird becomes a film that values absurdity more than even parody (something that technically lines up with the fictional Weird Al’s narrative arc — as he claims he is done parody and ready to make only original songs, which are only original in the universe of Weird).
I don’t want to say too much, but the latter half of this film involves multiple action scenes, a death count bordering on the double digits, Pablo Escobar, and a political assassination. The insanity of the third act may not work for everyone, but if you’re the type to laugh with Weird Al, this absurd turn is well within his usual bent (in fact, the absurdity stirs personal childhood memories of being in pain from laughing at a few of his truly atrocious musical epics — the eleven-minute “Albuquerque” from Running With Scissors comes to mind).
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story will not change your life. It’s pretty stupid. But one could quite easily argue that the sanitized music biopics of late are just as stupid — at least this one’s on purpose.