Review by Sean Boelman
When Weird: The Al Yankovic Story was announced as the opening night selection for the Midnight Madness section of TIFF it seemed like… well… a weird choice. However, the zany comedy of the film thrived with the Midnight Madness crowd, even if the film itself might not have been all that great.
The movie tells the story of musician Weird Al Yankovic in a way that can only be described as unorthodox. It was playing in the Midnight Madness section of TIFF, so anyone who thought they were going to be getting a paint-by-numbers musical biopic was going to find themselves surprised by the exercise in absurdity that they got.
The film is definitely meant to turn the idea of musical biopics on its head. Although this isn’t an entirely novel concept — movies like That Thing You Do! and the cult classic Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story have already done similar things, albeit without a real-life musician at their core.
Of course, describing this movie as anything that resembles real life is unfair given that it (purposefully) takes so many liberties with the truth of this story. Some are wholesome and silly enough, such as the “stories” behind the inspiration of Weird Al’s famous songs, but others go even more overboard with mixed results.
Indeed, the overall name of the game here is excessive and ridiculous. Given Weird Al’s characteristically wacky sense of humor, it’s fitting that the film would take this approach — Al did have a significant part in writing the script, after all. Some of the funniest moments are those which are a tongue-in-cheek wink to the audience, as those will consistently get the biggest laughs from fans.
Daniel Radcliffe’s performance as the accordion-playing parody music maestro isn’t as good as one would expect. Recent roles have shown Radcliffe’s ability to handle comedic roles, but it almost feels as if he is playing it too straight-faced here. He’s definitely not just doing an impression, but it’s also not as intricate of a comedic performance as one would like. His lip-syncing is also terrible.
On the other hand, Evan Rachel Wood is an absolute shining star in the supporting cast. Like Radcliffe, her version of Madonna is not meant to be taken literally. However, the thing that allows her performance to work is that Wood feels like she is playing an exaggerated take on the diva, whereas Radcliffe feels like he’s throwing a bunch of stuff to the wall to see what sticks.
However, the giant elephant in the room is that, despite the A-List cast, it is a movie produced by Funny or Die for the Roku Channel. Eric Appel expanded his short “trailer” into this feature, and it can’t escape the feeling of it being a YouTube skit that outstayed its welcome. The production value is low, and the humor is very much skit-like in nature.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story certainly has some funny moments, but one can’t help but feel like it doesn’t quite live up to its potential as a deconstruction of the music biopic genre. With the Midnight Madness festival crowd, it was a fun time — but watching the film at home alone on the Roku Channel might be a different story.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story screened at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, which runs from September 8-18.