Daniel Radcliffe in "Weird: The Al Yankovic Story"

Review: 'Weird: The Al Yankovic Story' Simply Silly

Derek Deskins READ TIME: 3 MIN.

Al Yankovic is a very silly man. There is perhaps no bigger parody artist in the world and he does it all while playing the instrument of polka: The accordion. He's just silly.

So no, the expectation was never that the eventual biopic of Al Yankovic's life would be a serious affair. This was always going to be a joke, a parody of a decidedly tired medium that is begging to be mocked. It's the only way that the story of Yankovic could or should be told. I guess I just hoped that the resulting "Weird: The Al Yankovic Story" was as good as it is silly.

Even as a kid, Alfred "Al" Yankovic was a little bit weird. Even though his strict father insists that Al should aspire to nothing more than working at the factory making who-knows-what, Al finds much more joy making up lyrics to established songs. When a door-to-door accordion salesman stops at the Yankovic residence, Al meets the very instrument he was destined to play. After years of practicing quietly in his room, he finally gets his chance to shine at a teenage underground polka party, leaving his peers in awe of his talent. That polka party sends Al down a road of success, sex, drugs, and a little bit of murder.

Part of the appeal of Weird Al is just how good he is at something that, on its face, anyone can do. Changing the lyrics of songs to make them a joke is the pastime of nearly every kid ("Jingle Bells" alone is one of the most popular introductions to parody songs). But Al can do it better than everyone else. He isn't tied to any one musician or genre, he is a celebrated equal opportunity parodist. But where Al's competition in parody songs is largely adolescent, the parody movie is far more varied.

Perhaps the hardest hurdle for "Weird: The Al Yankovic Story" to overcome is that of "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story." The 2007 Jake Kasdan-directed movie starred John C. Reilly as the titular Cox, and recounted his fictional life while skewering the medium. Coming on the heels of 2004's "Ray" and 2005's "Walk the Line," it took direct aim at both of those films and the long history of the genre. While "Walk Hard" wasn't a commercial success, it found sustained life through physical media sales and repetitive airing on cable channels. As the industry has shown little interest in advancing or changing the music biopic, the jokes of "Walk Hard" continue to be as relevant and funny as when it was first released.

What "Weird" is attempting to do is what "Walk Hard" has already accomplished. It's difficult to watch "Weird" without thinking of "Walk Hard," as it largely hits the same beats as its predecessor. Outside of having a real life source, it basically follows the route charted by "Walk Hard," down to its very title. It isn't that "Weird" doesn't have its successes, as its entire cast is dedicated to putting together an enjoyably ridiculous affair; it just feels a bit tired, an adjective no sane person would ever use to describe Weird Al Yankovic.

If we were ever going to get an Al Yankovic biopic, "Weird: The Al Yankovic Story" is the resulting movie that makes the most sense – both a ridiculous and largely fictionalized telling of Yankovic's strange career and a parody of the very genre it's using to tell the story. Absolutely filled with familiar faces and anchored by Daniel Radcliffe's delightful performance, it is an absurd movie that has as many successes as it does failures. Had "Weird" been released 15 years ago, it would feel fresher and more interesting. But as it stands, it is a silly dalliance that lacks any kind of notable meat.

"Weird: The Al Yankovic Story" is a goofy ode to an exceedingly strange man that feels both fitting and lacking. For Weird Al fans, it's a nice little extra for a career that is surely not done yet. For the rest of us, it'll be forgotten as quickly as whatever The Roku Channel is.

"Weird: The Al Yankovic Story" is streaming on The Roku Channel.

by Derek Deskins

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