Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,  biographical film, biography, review, biopic

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (2022) 

Having made a career out of parodying hit songs, helped in large part by his hilarious music videos, it was only a matter of time before ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic would send up the musical biopic. All the usual tropes are here: the voice-over narration; a disapproving father; flashbacks; battling with Colombian drug lords. Wait! What? Rather than opening with a standard disclaimer that this film is ‘inspired by real events’, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story closes with the (technically Oscar eligible) song ‘Now You Know’, assuring us that “if it’s in a movie, it’s gotta be true”.

When a travelling accordion salesman arrives at the Yankovic household, young Alfred’s life is changed forever. Though his father violently objects to “the devil’s squeezebox”, Al’s mother allows her son to keep the instrument as long as he stays in the closet. Years later, despite a successful night at a polka party, Al and his accordion struggle to make headway in the 1970’s music scene. Then one day, while making a bologna sandwich for his friends, inspiration strikes. The resultant song is sent to local DJ Dr. Demento who champions Al’s unique talents.

Only bearing a passing resemblance to the truth, this biopic exploits many well-honed clichés to gleefully depict Yankovic’s life up to his triumph at the Grammys when he won the award for ‘Perhaps Not Technically the Best but Arguably the Most Famous Accordion Player in an Extremely Specific Genre of Music’. There's the failed auditions, winning over a hostile crowd, descending into drugs, becoming self-absorbed and alienating his friends before a final redemptive performance. Yet it’s when the more extreme deviations from the truth occur that the film tends to lose steam. The Madonna romance outlives its welcome, while the Pablo Escobar sub-plot seems an uneasy fit. 

Or to put it another way (with apologies to Harpo)...

 

Escobar, oh Escobar

Why are you in the movie?

Character of Madonna

Should cameo like Pee Wee

Daniel Radcliffe, 'Weird Al' Yankovic, Evan Rachel Wood, Madonna, Jack Black
Daniel Radcliffe
Daniel Radcliffe

as 'Weird Al' Yankovic

press to zoom
Evan Rachel Wood
Evan Rachel Wood

as Madonna

press to zoom
Rainn Wilson
Rainn Wilson

as Dr. Demento

press to zoom
Quinta Brunson
Quinta Brunson

as Oprah Winfrey

press to zoom
1/5
Wolfman Jack, Quinta Brunson, Oprah Winfrey, Hulk Hogan, Coolio

For a film that knowingly disregards the facts, here are a few things Weird: The Al Yankovic Story got right

  • Weird Al did get his first accordion from a traveling salesman.

  • Weird Al did send one of his early songs to Dr. Demento's radio programme.

  • 'My Bologna' was recorded in a bathroom.

  • Weird Al was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey

  • Weird Al has won a Grammy (5 in fact)

  • Coolio was not happy with Weird Al’s parody of 'Gangstas Paradise'.

Divine, Diana Ross, Pee-Wee Herman, Tiny Tim, Salvador Dali
John Deacon, Conan O'Brien, Andy Warhol, Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Elvira