The reviews for the bizarre biopic Weird: The Al Yankovic Story are in, and critics are loving the film’s peculiar charm. “Weird Al” Yankovic is without a doubt the most iconic figure in parody music, with a career spanning multiple generations. Although he hasn’t released a full album in nearly a decade – since 2014’s Mandatory Fun – the entertainer’s hit parody songs like “Amish Paradise,” “Eat It,” and “White & Nerdy” remain beloved by fans across the globe. Although he is best known as a musician and accordionist, he also has a lot of experience in film and television, typically appearing as himself in projects including The Simpsons, Bill & Ted Face the Music, and even Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, though he did also co-write and star in the weirdo 1989 comedy UHF.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, which will premiere exclusively on The Roku Channel on November 4, has a peculiar history, which is on brand for the artist. The project began as a short film for the comedy website Funny or Die, presented as a fake trailer for a biopic about Weird Al, as played by Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul, sending up the tropes of more serious music biopics like Walk the Line and Ray. The director of that short, Eric Appel, eventually teamed with Weird Al to write a screenplay for Appel to direct, starring Daniel Radcliffe in the role instead of Paul, but keeping the same offbeat tone as the original parody video. The cast of Weird also includes Rainn Wilson as Dr. Demento, Nina West as Divine, Quinta Brunson as Oprah Winfrey, and Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna.
Today, critics are sharing their thoughts on Weird: The Al Yankovic Story following its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8. One thing they can all agree on is that the project is appropriately weird. Although some wished that the film would focus more on a unifying theme rather than what seems to be more a series of sketches starring Weird Al, so far few have been able to deny the goofy, affable charm that the film has to offer. Another point they are agreeing on is that, though Radcliffe doesn’t ever really look like Weird Al (which is likely the point), his enthusiasm for the role shines through in effortlessly charming ways. Read selected quotes from critics below:
Ross Bonaime, Collider:
The greatest joy of Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is watching Radcliffe as “Weird Al,” complete with oversized glasses, curly hair, and Hawaiian shirts. Radcliffe is completely game for…whatever the hell this is, but also shows a true love for Yankovic’s work and career, and a true appreciation for this comedic legend.
Valerie Complex, Deadline:
Most biopics are bleak and joyless. At least Appel wants to have some fun. You don’t get a real sense of truth about Weird Al’s rise to fame, but there is some commentary about the pressures of carving a niche within a strict music industry and how fame can turn people into egomaniacs. Even if the film purports Weird Al’s career as one giant joke, one thing about him is that he bulldozed through the music world with reckless abandon, and he did what he wanted to do on his terms.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety:
“Weird” is witty and inventive enough to sustain what could, in lesser hands, have been a one-joke movie, an “SNL” riff on itself. The film’s ultimate joke is that “Weird Al” Yankovic’s entire career was a joke — not just because he made so-daft-they’re-funny versions of other people’s songs, but because what he did made him a court jester of imitation.
Johnny Oleksinski, The New York Post:
Weird Al fans, like yours truly, will not only recognize this brand of outrageous humor from his songs, but also his other forays onto the screen. Send-ups of movie scenes from “Boogie Nights” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” harks back to what he did in the under-appreciated 1989 comedy movie “UHF” (“Badgers? We don’t need no stinking badgers!”). And the pace and dryness of the gags is a dead ringer for the reedited celebrity interviews he used do on “The Weird Al Show” on CBS.
Steve Pond, The Wrap:
Does it have moments of hilarity? Sure does. Does it run out of steam at times? Hell, yes. Is Appel a workmanlike director who mostly stays out of the way and lets his cast deliver the laughs? Yep, though he does try to get fancy a few times, with mixed results.
So far, the review aggregator service Rotten Tomatoes has not compiled enough reviews to give the film an official Fresh or Rotten score. There will also be a new wave of reviews coming once the film is officially released on The Roku Channel that will likely change the ratings considerably. However, if things keep moving forward the way they are going, it’s looking like Weird: The Al Yankovic Story will be able to go toe to toe with, and perhaps even exceed the scores of some of the more well-received serious musical biopics of the modern day, including 2022’s Elvis (78%), 2021’s Aretha Frankin film Respect (68%), and 2019’s Elton John bio-musical Rocketman (89%).
It certainly seems like Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is going to be a more or less perfect encapsulation of the strange legacy of the man himself. It remains to be seen how wide of an audience the film will be able to get, limited as it is to those who either have The Roku Channel or are willing to cough up first-run VOD prices. However, with such a buzzy premiere and glowing press, it might just be the dominating biopic of 2022’s awards season, unusual as that may seem.
Source: Various (see above)