I wish I didn’t have to tell you that Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is a parody. I’d only heard two “Weird Al” Yankovic songs in my life before I saw the movie, which turned out to be for the best: The less you know going in, the better. Advertised as a biopic about the musician, who’s most known for rewriting popular songs as absurdist parodies, Weird is itself (and frankly this deserves a spoiler alert) a satire of musician biopics, not to mention sappy dramas, action movies, and more. It’s also the most unironically fun movie I’ve seen in a long time.
Parody movies have a tendency to feel like one long Saturday Night Live sketch, probably because a lot of them are exactly that. While I’ve enjoyed my fair share of Will Ferrell joints, Weird is going for something different. Much like Yankovic’s songs, it’s so convincingly sincere that it took me nearly half the movie to realize Yankovic, who wrote and produced Weird, was doing exactly what he does for music: taking the skeleton of something familiar and filling it out with his own silly material.
By now, reviews like this one have revealed enough that viewers will go in knowing Weird is a parody (sorry), but I must give credit where credit is due: The movie’s promotion made absolutely no mention of the fact that the entire thing is thoroughly fictional. It was clear from the trailer and several quick Google searches that there would be some, uh, significant embellishments — Yankovic never dated Madonna, for example — but it maintained its posture as a very loosely interpreted biopic. Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Weird Al despite looking absolutely nothing like him, even followed in the steps of every Method-ish actor who has starred in one of these things and learned to play the accordion for the role.
True to Yankovic’s intent, it’s not entirely clear in the first hour just how much is fictionalized. It hits all the nauseatingly familiar beats of a music biopic with just enough sarcasm to eventually let you in on the joke — except, instead of a handsome up-and-coming actor in prosthetics, it’s Radcliffe with a curly wig and an accordion. There’s the big aha moment when our struggling-musician protagonist hits upon a now-iconic sound, the music label bigwigs who tell him he’ll never make it, and the downward spiral into celebrity assholery and substance abuse.
In Weird’s universe, a Weird Al parody can skyrocket a song to the top of the charts, and the central plot revolves around Al’s romance with Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood), who hatches an evil plan to convince him to parody “Like a Virgin” even though he wants to start writing original songs. Eventually, Weird shape-shifts into satirizing other genres — one pivot involves a thoroughly convincing fight scene that looks like it was choreographed by John Wick himself — and becomes increasingly ludicrous while staying deeply, irresistibly sincere.
More than anything, Weird has given me a newfound appreciation for Radcliffe, who has occupied a largely benevolent but unremarkable spot at the fringes of my psyche for some time now. Previously, I knew him as the guy who got trapped into eight Harry Potter movies and also got naked in a horse play. But Radcliffe’s balls-to-the-walls commitment to the bit is what makes Weird tick. Wherever the movie’s genre veers, he veers with it, and he veers hard. He never looks like a comedian doing an impression of a drama, or even like he’s joking at all. The more he commits, the more insane, funny, and bizarrely charming the film feels.
Weird will be available to watch on the Roku Channel November 4. With all due respect to Roku, this movie deserves more, namely a theater release (or at least a streaming release without ads). Still, I cannot recommend popping an edible and getting wrapped up in the absurdity of Weird enough. Be warned, though: “Like a Surgeon” will be stuck in your head for days.