Welcome, World Travelers: “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” Dares to Be Stupid!
by James Coulter
Originally, I was going to review Disenchanted on Disney Plus; however, since I still have not watched the original Enchantedmovie, I decided to postpone the review of its sequel until next week. Until then, here’s a review of a great movie NOT made by Disney and NOT on Disney Plus.
Do I need to sell Weird Al Yankovic? He’s Weird Al, the most prolific parody songwriter of our time. There’s no one else like him. Go ahead: name a parody songwriter greater than him. You can’t! Because he’s the greatest! From “My Bologna” to “Party in the CIA”, all his songs slap and everyone likes them. In fact, I think it’s impossible to hate him. You may not like his style, but it’s hard to actively dislike him or his work. That’s how great his music is.
So, when I say there’s a parody movie about him streaming free on Roku, do I need to sell it to you? It’s a satirical biopic about one of the greatest satirical songwriters. Of course, it’s going to be comedy gold because everything Weird Al touches turns into pure comedy gold. So, what more can I say other than “go watch it”?
Well, I guess I technically need to write a formal movie review. So, is Weird: The Al Yankovic Story any good, or…ah, that’s a trick question! Of course, it’s good. It’s better than good, and here’s why:
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story tells the story about the life and career of Weird Al Yankovic, from taking accordion lessons as a child to being discovered and promoted by Dr. Demento to his inevitable rise as a Billboard chart-topping musical superstar. Of course, as this movie is a parody—and, really, what better way to tell the story about the world’s greatest parody songwriter than with a parody musical biopic?—there’s far more fiction than truth to the story. While most celebrity biopics are infamous for taking the truth and exaggerating it to fit a narrative more dramatically, this film takes only the tiniest sliver of truth and uses it to veer wildly off the rails into the realm of the absurd.
For example, Weird Al was inspired to become a musician after being sold his first accordion from a traveling salesman; however, his father did not get into a bloody fistfight with that salesman because he disapproved of his son playing “the devil’s squeezebox”, nor did Al ever get busted for playing in polka parties as a teenager. Also, while Madonna did, indeed, approach Weird Al to have him make a parody of one of her songs, that request did not result in a steamy love scene in his mansion or in her becoming a clingy girlfriend.
Like a good parody, this movie follows the conventional storyline of a celebrity musician biopic, with the usual character and story beats followed to a tee, and exaggerates it to the point of absurdity, taking a normal situation and fouling it all up beyond recognition: from his disapproving parents forbidding him from following his dreams and living his true self, to skeptical music agents (one played by Weird Al himself) berating him for being a weirdo with no talent, to him boldly declaring that his life’s dream is literally to take songs other people have written and change the words to them.
Perhaps the most shining example of satire comes from the act where Weird Al decides to stop writing parody songs and write original music. What “original” song does he decide to pen? “Eat It!”, which Al sincerely asserts is “100 percent original.” Later in the film, the joke becomes even more absurd when Al receives a call from his agent informing him that Michael Jackson has released a “new” song, “Beat It!”, which is like Al’s “original” song. This news enrages Al into a steaming fit, as he rants about how other people will now assume he wrote his song as a parody to “Beat It!” despite his song being written first. (The fact that this is not what really happened at all in real life only makes this scene even more knee-clappingly hilarious!)
What makes this movie work is its absolute sincerity. This movie may be a total fabrication of Weird Al’s life and career, but it plays that fabrication 100 percent straight. At no point do the actors turn to wink at the camera. This film is 100 percent serious about its portrayal of events not being 100 percent serious. As Tony Goldmark from the Escape From Vault Disneypodcast mentioned in his review:
“Weird‘s primary joke is that it doesn’t even try to be accurate. It uses what really happened as the loosest of jumping-off points and then careens further and further into Looney Tune Land. It’s like the cinematic equivalent of a late-2000s Colbert Reportsketch, playing itself up as something constantly trying to gaslit you with lies but doing such a patently-ridiculous job at it that we can’t help but laugh at it, which, of course, is the joke.”
This absolute sincerity, while mostly highlighting the absolute absurdity, also lends itself to providing real pathos for some honestly heartfelt moments. This fact becomes most evident near the end. I will not spoil anything, but let’s just say there’s a reason why his father was so disapproving of Al becoming a musician. There’s also a long-running joke about one of Al’s biggest fans being a South American drug cartel that serves as a pivotal plot point in the movie and results in an ending that is so far from reality it lets you know, without a doubt, the film is a parody.
In short, this movie is great. If I had a nickel for every time I reviewed a non-Disney movie that ended up being one of my absolute favorites of the year, I would have two nickels, which isn’t much but it’s weird it happened twice. (The first time was RRR.) What else can I say but…stop reading this and go watch Weird: The Al Yankovic Story!