It’s another biopic about an iconic musical star, and we have a problem. Certain tropes demand to be met, and what if the star in question simply didn’t have the usual milestones in his life – the drug abuse, the parental estrangement, the stint in rehab, etc.? In this case, you have the star in question write something truly deranged and find a lead who’s willing to be Weird. Literally.
It’s hard to picture a more perfect actor to step into the derangement in question than Daniel Radcliffe, who has a blast as the title character in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. How else do you describe a cinematic journey that includes Madonna as the villainous corrupting influence and eventual aspiring drug lord?
Partly by casting Evan Rachel Wood, who almost walks off with the whole thing. But no matter how outright bizarre Weird gets, it nevertheless retains the core of an artist who became famous for his song parodies, and would gleefully make his own biopic a sendup of the genre.
“Based” on a “True Story”
Anyone more familiar with the more family-friendly version of Weird Al should also brace themselves. For all the lovable humor of “I Love Rocky Road” and “Tacky,” there’s also the wickedly dark “Party in the CIA.”
Prepare for moments that include his mother Mary (Julianne Nicholson) telling the young Al, “It would be best if you’d just stop being who you are and doing the things you love,” and the grown Al putting out cigarettes in someone’s palm and taking trips of the hallucinogenic variety, courtesy of his mentor Dr. Demento (Rainn Wilson).
But there’s one important element missing in the whole lot of whacky twists and turns, and it’s perhaps the most important one: vulnerability. Weird Al clearly put a lot of real-life elements into a movie he also co-wrote with director Eric Appel, but it’s also a clever camouflage, allowing him to evade exposing many of the truly painful, dark moments in his life.
The elements that are present in Weird also aren’t always the most cohesive. As the plot escalates to outrageous levels which eventually include Pablo Escobar (Arturo Castro), some of the elements feel like a series of episodes haphazardly thrown together, courtesy of Appel’s long history of TV work.
A Very Special Episode…
He certainly wasn’t given much time for his feature debut, having shot Weird in a mere 18 days.
It’s still enough for about as many cameos as a Muppet movie, not so surprising given how Weird Al closely resembles them in humor and frankly, appearance.
And of course, Al himself pops up for a small role as a tightly wound record executive. So it’s rather difficult to imagine audiences really minding too much that the details of Al’s own life are actually scant. Chances are they’ll be too busy laughing to care.
Rating: 7/10 SPECS
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Andrea Thompson is a writer, editor, and film critic who is also the founder and director of the Film Girl Film Festival.
She is a member of the Chicago Indie Critics and runs her own site, A Reel Of One’s Own, and has written for RogerEbert.com, The Spool, The Mary Sue, Inverse, and The Chicago Reader. She has no intention of becoming any less obsessed with cinema, comics, or nerdom in general.