When did you first hear a song by Weird Al Yankovic? I was a young teen, perhaps fourteen when my friend Daniel introduced me to the weird, wonderful musician that quickly took over several of my playlists. We listened to the “Straight Outta Lynwood” album, and when I got home, I looked up his other albums and started to listen to his entire catalog. I don’t know what it is about Weird Al. Still, I think it has something to do with his fun, chaotic energy, his gift for melding pop music with other aspects of pop culture, such as politics, religion, and social media, and his career that spans several decades and styles. He writes his own music, plays various keyboard instruments, and has retained a reputation for being witty, kind, and mischievous.
It stands to reason, then, that his biopic, “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,” would be similar to his albums, and I was incredibly excited to see that it was streaming for free on Roku. Knowing that he had chosen Daniel Radcliffe (“The Lost City,” “Swiss Army Man,” and “Victor Frankenstein”) made this dream come true even better, especially after I learned Radcliffe had learned accordion to play some of the musical performance sequences and that he grew his own mustache for the role, dedicating himself to becoming the exaggerated version of one of music’s most beloved, unique individuals.
Weird Al’s penchant for parody doesn’t stop at his music – “Weird” is an incredible parody of serious biopics that often come across as part family drama, part pilgrimage, and overly focused on finding a way to tell the story of a star in an incredibly unrealistic, linear way, as if the person knew they were going to become a pop culture icon the entire time. This biopic is a refreshingly silly take on how random encounters, childhood dreams, and sheer stubbornness comprise the majority of a person’s rise to stardom.
Along with Radcliffe, there is a multitude of superb actors and comedians who all came together to celebrate the wild, wonderful weirdness of Al Yankovic. Evan Rachel Wood, Jack Black, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, Conan O’Brien, Rainn Wilson, Will Forte, Demetri Martin, Paul F. Tompkins, Quinta Brunson, Thomas Lennon, Arturo Castro, Dot-Marie Jones, David Dastmalchian, Patton Oswalt, Michael McKean, Josh Groban, Seth Green, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Scott Aukerman bring out their best impressions and performances, the results of which are hysterically funny, deeply moving, and absurd in turns.
One of my favorite scenes was where Weird Al attends a pool party and realizes he’s in a group of already-famous individuals, including Andy Warhol, Pee-Wee Herman, Alice Cooper, Tiny Tim, Divine, Salvador Dali, Gallagher, Wolfman Jack, and Doctor Demento. It evolves into a contest of talent, and the impressions are so spot-on and hysterical that I could not stop laughing.
Though this tall tale is meant to be a humorous, tongue-in-cheek, “based on a true story” biopic, there are a few things in the film that might cause some viewers to feel uncomfortable. If you struggle with family trauma, you may want to check the trigger warnings before watching. The fights between Al and his father, the silence from his mother, and Al’s parents’ attempts to curb his enthusiasm are hard to watch, especially if you, like me, have had similar experiences, whether the conversation revolved around a dream, a revelation about yourself, or a decision reached. It does resolve in a typically weird and funny way, but just be aware that some things feel too real in this story.
Watching “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” reaffirmed my fan status, made me cackle (and shed a few tears), and comforted me, which is often what Weird Al’s music does whenever I listen to it. If you like Weird Al and his music, enjoy watching Daniel Radcliffe act, or want to see the best impression of Pee-Wee Herman I’ve ever seen, you might want to set aside a few hours to watch the film. It’s available for free on Roku, but if you don’t have access to Roku, Weird Al has encouraged pirating it. Obviously.
Final Thoughts: Weird Al has once again shown the world that kindness, belief in yourself, and community support make us the best we can be. We love you, Weird Al!