The Reel Review
The iconic parody songmaster explores every facet of his life – most of it imagined – in this mock biopic starring Daniel Radcliffe that Weird Al Yankovic wrote with director Eric Appel. Based on Yankovic’s 2010 short film, Weird is loaded with the usual biopic tropes and clichés – melodrama, illicit affairs, drug and alcohol abuse – nearly all of which is the total opposite of Yankovic’s own uncontroversial, very ordinary, real-life story.
With Julianne Nicholson (Mare of Easttown, Togo, I, Tonya) and Toby Huss (King of the Hill) playing Yankovic’s unsupportive parents (his real-life parents were actually always super supportive of their son’s accordion playing and songwriting skills), Weird‘s supporting cast is a who’s who line-up of comedians: Rainn Wilson, Diedrich Bader, Dot-Marie Jones, Will Forte, Emo Phillips, Conan O’Brien, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Michael McKean, Rupaul’s Drag Race alum Nina West, Thomas Lennon, Jack Black and Seth Green. But it is Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld) who gets the biggest chunk of screentime as Yankovic’s fictional girlfriend, Madonna, who gets kidnapped by fictional Yankovic superfan, Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. Wood totally nails the look and sound of mid-80s Madonna and it’s a kick to see all Yankovic’s friends play such iconic characters from the era as Andy Warhol, Dr. Demento, Divine, Pee-Wee Herman, Gallagher, and Elvira.
But beyond those cute moments and a few chuckles scattered throughout, Weird feels very much like one of those overlong, throwaway Saturday Night Live sketches that appear in the show’s final half hour. The concepts are fun, but unlike the Grammy winner’s own music videos, the execution is very meh, despite Radcliffe’s all-in performance. As a parody movie, Weird is neither all that weird nor all that funny.
• Daniel Radcliffe, who was Yankovic’s first choice to play himself, actually learned to play the accordion for the film, even getting some on-set lessons from Weird Al himself. All of Radcliffe’s singing is actually dubbed by Yankovic, who also plays a record executive in the film. Adam Driver had been Yankovic’s next choice had Radcliffe been unavailable.
• Although Yankovic’s relationship with Madonna in the film is complete fiction (he met her for 45 seconds in 1985), artists did experience the ‘Yankovic bump” in sales of their songs after his parodies of them.
• Weird Al Yankovic won the first of his five Grammy awards in 1985, for Best Comedy Recording for “Eat It,” his parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.”
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