The craziest biopic ever

TORONTO – The new “Weird Al” Yankovic movie, which premiered at midnight Thursday at the Toronto International Film Festival, is called “Weird.” It’s the most accurate title since Cats.

Movie review

Running time: 108 minutes. Not yet rated. Coming to Roku on November 4th.

Finding a stranger crazier, even in an equally quirky biopic, will be quite a challenge. Damn near impossible. You can hardly believe it’s real – because it’s not. Almost nothing about this hilarious tale of the pop music parody legend made famous with songs like “Yoda” and “Fat” is even remotely true.

For example, Wikipedia doesn’t mention Weird Al’s rocking romance with Madonna, which then became a Yoko Ono-esque wedge between him and his band. Michael Jackson definitely didn’t release “Beat It” after Yankovic wrote “Eat It”. was Cocaine king Pablo Escobar, a Weird Al superfan who offered him 1 billion pesos to perform at his birthday party? Who is to say that?

What Yankovic and director/co-writer Eric Appel have done brilliantly at times is a parody of Yankovic’s own life while elevating the entire biopic genre. In a messed-up way, the maneuver is kind of poetic. And so very funny.

Daniel Radcliffe plays Weird Al and Rainn Wilson is Dr. demento "Strange: The Al Yankovic Story."
Daniel Radcliffe plays Weird Al and Rainn Wilson is Dr. Demento in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.
Courtesy of TIFF

It’s an uproar when a rebellious teenage Al sneaks out of the house to attend a polka party for cool kids and is pushed into playing the accordion by his peers.

Or early, when as a little boy he starts singing “Amazing Grapes” at the dinner table.

“Those are not the words!” his cruel father yells at him.

“I know,” says Little Al, who secretly plays the accordion in the closet. “I made them better.”

Later, adult Al (Daniel Radcliffe), after composing the melody “My Bologna” from “My Sharona” while making sandwiches, proclaims his lifelong dream: “I’ll be the most famous accordion player in a very specific genre of music! ”

Lush orchestral music swells everywhere, as if asking us to cry. And we do, but for a different reason.

Yankovic's career success is a little bigger than we remember "Strange."
Yankovic’s professional success is a little bigger than what we remember in “Weird.”
Courtesy of TIFF
Daniel Radcliffe and
Daniel Radcliffe and “Weird Al” Yankovic attend the film’s premiere during the Toronto International Film Festival.
Getty Images

Radcliffe wears the frizzy wig and thick-rimmed glasses, and the role fits him like an oversized Hawaiian shirt. Real Radcliffe and Weird Al share an innate sympathy, actually an innocence, and Radcliffe’s personality makes the film stand out. We really care what happens to his Al, even though it’s all fake and 100% a joke.

And he’s accompanied by a stacked cast of actors. Evan Rachel Wood plays a gum-chewing ’80s Madonna in “Elvis,” and Rainn Wilson takes on the role of radio personality/Weird Al mentor Dr. Demento with the goofy seriousness of Tom Hanks.

Toby Huss is best as Nick’s father. Channeling every disapproving father in the history of creatively genius biopics, he makes every jerk and grunt laugh.

There are a lot of celebrity cameos that I won’t mention. You are all fantastic.

Radcliffe's Al learns to play the accordion in his closet after his father disapproves.
Radcliffe’s Al learns to play the accordion in his closet after his father disapproves.
1996-98 AccuSoft Inc., all right

Weird Al fans like you really will recognize this brand of outrageous humor not only from his songs, but from his other forays into the big screen as well. Submissions of film scenes from Boogie Nights and Bohemian Rhapsody are reminiscent of what he did in the underrated 1989 comedy film UHF (“Badgers? We don’t need no stinking baders!”). And the pacing and dryness of the gags are a dead signal for the revamped celebrity interviews he used to do on CBS’s “The Weird Al Show.”

But what will people who didn’t attend AlCon at age 11 and don’t have a signed “UHF” LP think of this film?

Appel’s film is, after all, a co-production with Funny or Die, so it’s somewhat skit-like despite being over 90 minutes long. The film is a tad too long. But here’s something to draw in for anyone who enjoys the offbeat comedy of Amy Sedaris’ Strangers With Candy or the violent living room antics of Family Guy. You don’t need to know all the words from The Saga Begins.

Any teenager would be watching “Weird” in their basement at 2am today, and some of us who were teenagers 20-40 years ago will pull up a chair. The craziest biopic ever

Emma Bowman

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