“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” revamps the genre of biopics

Twelve years ago the sketch comedy website Funny or Die posted a fake trailer for a Weird Al biopic. Starring Aaron Paul of “Breaking Bad” as Yankovic, the trailer parodied the familiarly formulaic music biopics that Hollywood cranks out every year. This joke trailer was adapted into a feature film called “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” starring Daniel Radcliff as Weird Al, which is now streaming on the Roku Channel. 

Both the 12-year-old trailer and the new movie are directed by Eric Appel. The movie and trailer are both built around the same concept, making a mockery of biopics about famous musicians. By embellishing and outright lying about Weird Al’s life, the movie masterfully pokes fun at an entire genre of film.

“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” is loosely based on the life of the most successful parody artist of our time.Weird Al is best known for his parodies of 80s pop songs, such as “Eat It” ot “Fat.” Radcliff stars as Al Yankovic, a young artist who blew up off his song parodies but wants to transition to writing his own original songs. Both Weird Al’s record label and fictional girlfriend Madonna, played by Evan Rachel Wood, want him to return to parodies for financial gains. This conflict sends Al down a dark path involving alcohol addiction and a showdown with Pablo Escobar.  

The story for this movie is obviously not what happened during Weird Al’s career; however, this is exactly on brand for him as a parody artist. In recent years I have grown exhausted with music biopics. “Weird” however breaks that cycle of boredom by ridiculing every convention of the genre.

The plot is mostly what you would expect for a movie about a musical artist, except for the third act which truly goes off the rails in the best possible way. An aspiring artist is discouraged from pursuing their talents by their family, they get discovered and gain fame and fortune, then they push everyone close to them away through addiction and selfishness, and finally the artist goes on their redemption arc and becomes beloved again. If this movie did not have the sense of humor that it did, this plot would be less entertaining than watching paint dry. Luckily, every scene is played for laughs or to make fun of something.

Radcliff is hysterical as this angry, serious version of Weird Al. This is by no means one of the best performances of the year, but Radcliff perfectly commits to the ridiculous atmosphere of the movie. Almost every supporting character or background face is played by a moderately famous comedian or actor doing an impression of someone who was influential on young Weird Al. The best of these is Rainn Wilson as Dr. Demento, an eccentric radio DJ who was a mentor and hero to Yankovic.

One area where “Weird” falls flat are the visuals. The shots look like something you would see on cable TV. Most comedies have the problem of uninteresting shots, so this is not surprising, but I was expecting a little bit more flair out of this movie. Additionally, there are a few scenes with such hysterically horrific CGI that I thought it was intentionally bad and played for laughs.

“Weird” is a mixed bag. For fans of Weird Al, this could easily be some of the most fun you will have watching a movie this year. If you do not really like Weird Al or his sense of humor, you will probably find this to be one of the dumbest and nonsensical things you have ever seen. The movie is free for anyone to watch on the Roku Channel, which is great for accessibility, but I was bummed that I did not get to witness this on the big screen.  

I am giving “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” four out of five stars.

Connect with Jacob Costello: @MrJacobCostello