WEIRD: THE AL YANKOVIC STORY (2022) l Roku | November 4, 2022
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Evan Rachel Wood, Rainn Wilson
Director: Eric Appel
Explores every facet of Yankovic's life, from his meteoric rise to fame with early hits like 'Eat It' and 'Like a Surgeon' to his torrid celebrity love affairs and famously depraved lifestyle.
TIFF REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story flips the musical biopic genre on its head with a hilarious look at “Weird Al” Yankovic, featuring two outstanding performances from Daniel Radcliffe and Evan Rachel Wood that are guaranteed to leave you dying of laughter!
I remember growing up listening to “Weird Al” Yankovic’s parody covers of famous songs and having a blast because of his infectious polka accordion infused melodies and clever lyrics. Never for a second did I wonder about Yankovic himself, but from the second the biopic starring Daniel Radcliffe was announced, I was immediately excited. Radcliffe has been picking unique and great roles since the Harry Potter franchise, so portraying Yankovic was the perfect next role for him. And it is without a doubt one of the best performances for Radcliffe’s career, delivering a dazzling and hilarious portrayal of this larger than life musician.
While the film is marketed as a biopic, it is very much a parody of the genre itself, which is the only way you can tell… or not tell Yankovic’s story. Yankovic’s story itself is exaggerated for comedic effect, including a torrent love affair with Madonna and a subplot involving Pablo Escobar (neither of which ever happened), but it has the hallmarks of a musical biopic. We see moments of Yankovic’s childhood, the creation of his first hit song, his breakout moment, and other moments from his career. You can see the influences of Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman in every scene, but the entire film is unapologetically Yankovic, making for what is probably the best musical biopic satire ever made. While the genre itself is overpopulated with multiple films a year, Weird feels fresh and original among the typical biopics, mainly because it lies to the audience from start to finish for comedic effect. Each scene is ripe with brilliant humour that had the theatre erupting in laughter so loudly that you would miss the next one liner.
But beyond that, it’s a film that will have you clapping in your seat along with all of the great musical moments as Radcliffe breaks out the accordion and lights up the screen like it is a live concert. The film features Yankovic’s biggest hits such as “My Bologna”, “Eat It” and “Like a Surgeon”, while the script drops so many nods to other hits of his that there wasn’t enough time to include in the film itself. And of course the film features a new Yankovic song over the closing credits, poking fun at the film itself as well as qualifying for the Best Original Song at the Academy Awards this season. It’s the perfect self aware way to end the film, so make sure to stick through the credits for it.
Radcliffe himself revels in the quirkiness of Yankovic, tapping into his comedic talents, having the time of his life on screen. It is a magnetic performance that captures your attention every second that Radcliffe is on screen, further distancing himself from his Harry Potter past, which is without a doubt one of Radcliffe’s finest performances to date. The supporting cast is great, consisting of Rainn Wilson, Julianne Nicholson, and Toby Huss, each having their standout comedic moments. And each scene is filled with cameos galore, including such celebrities as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Lennon, Will Forte, Dot-Marie Jones, David Dastmalchian and Nina West.
But the scene stealer of the cast is Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna. Wood is unrecognizable as Madonna, undergoing a complete transformation to become the Queen of Pop, with the mannerisms and accent to become Madonna. But this is not Madonna as you know her, this is the “Weird Al” version who is a sociopath, obsessed with making out with Yankovic and possesses murderous tendencies. It is a comedic tour de force performance by Wood, who proves that she can tackle any type of role and knock it out of the park. As a duo, her and Radcliffe are a dream team, playing off each other’s comedic energy perfectly and pushing each other further and further into the craziness of the story.
The film overall is the perfect midnight special film, delivering the outrageous comedy and quirkiness that the best films of this genre are known to offer combined with an interactive element that is destined to make this film a cult classic! And it is all due to director Eric Appel who pulls together every insane moment of this film into one wild ride. It’s hard to believe that this is the first film that Appel has ever directed and that he did so in only a eighteen day shoot, but he knocks it out of the park and delivers what is probably going to end up as one of my favourite films of the Toronto International Film Festival this year. Needless to say, but I hope Appel continues to direct and write more comedies like Weird, because his comedic vision is a breath of fresh air in a genre which often struggles to find something truly funny. Daniel Radcliffe and Evan Rachel Wood light up the screen with outrageously hilarious and triumphant performances that embrace the genius of “Weird Al” Yankovic that will have audiences howling with laughter, making Weird: The Al Yankovic Story the best satirical musical biopic of all time that I cannot wait to watch over and over again!
RATING: 4.5 out of 5