When award season rolls around it’s inevitable that at least one fairly so-so biopic come along in the hope of hoovering up a few awards. This year there’s at least I Wanna Dance With Somebody to fill that void. With the stink of Rami Malek’s performance as Freddie Mercury winning Best Actor still in recent memory an the snubbing of the superior Rocketman lingering we get this from the minds at FunnyOrDie.
Telling the “true” story of how one curly haired accordion aficionado called Al Yankovic embraced his inner weird and became a musical smash.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story honours the real man perfectly by taking a template done by other artists and putting his comedic spin on it. It’s what he did with his music and the same is true here. We meet a young Al being busted for going to polka parties, told by his loving mother and disapproving factory working father to be normal.
The early scenes director Eric Appel shoot like a hazy memory, with Julianne Nicholson and Toby Huss as Al’s parents just about keeping their faces from bursting into laughter long enough to chastise the young Yankovic.
When the film gives way to Al’s rise to fame – his inspired “I want to put lyrics to songs that already exist” moment, Appel leaves it to Daniel Radcliffe, Hollywood’s weirdest actor, to put some gravity onto the delivery. What works is that the film so clearly loves poking fun of the music-biopic genre. Down to Radlciffe lip-syncing to the real Weird Al’s voice. (Weird Al gets a very funny cameo as a record executive).
The supporting cast is well played, especially with Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna, desperate to get Al to parody her song so her sales will get a boost. Rainn Wilson is also perfectly cast as niche radio DJ Dr Demento, always with a top hat and often in a bubble bath. Both performances match Radcliffe is the nuts category.
The film has a litany of cameos, with people all too happy to rock up for a moment and have some fun. It’s the spirit of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping that linger over the film as the jokes thick and fast. You feel like the three make a trilogy that poke fun as specific moments in the music film history. Walk Hard mocked the prestige drama, Popstar the vanity doc and Weird the basically fiction biopic.
What sets this apart from, say, Blonde is that this film – co-written by Weird Al himself clearly loves everyone involved. There’s a loving fun being poked at Madonna, a loving fun made of Al, and even of those in cameos. It’s a love letter to people who are different and to one guy who brought polka to the people.
Weird in the best possible way.