Weird Al Yankovic has such a private life, while doing some research via Wikipedia, I was learned that as a devout Christian, he doesn’t use profanity or even drink alcohol. In 1992 he became a vegetarian but mostly follows a vegan diet now, even though he admits to eating a cheese pizza every now and again. And that’s probably the most scandalous thing about the legendary musician/actor.
Even when he appeared in a “Fuck 2016” segment on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, he kept it fresh, even though it would’ve been gold to hear Yankovic drop the F-bomb. But no. He’s been married since 2001 to his wife, Suzanne, and they have a daughter, Nina. Yankovic’s private life is just that – private. But there’s not much there. There’s no scandals. There’s no tabloid that you would see on Page Six.
That’s the ironic twist to Weird: The Al Yankovic Story streaming free on the Roku Channel of all places. Much of the movie is a parody of Yankovic’s life. Watching it, you can’t help but sees parallels with Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, which seemed to parody the musical biopics similiar to I Walk the Line, Coal Miner’s Daughter, LaBamba, etc. They all follow a similar format. And since then we’ve gotten movies about Queen and lead singer Freddie Mercury, Elton John and N.W.A. with Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy-E, they seem to follow the format even more strictly.
The premis is always the same. We begin with the musician in their youth where they are chasing their dream. As usual, their parents are divided with the father usually being against it while the mother is supportive. They struggle and then produce a hit song and/or album, that leads to fortune and fame. But then, they get drunk on their own success with a downward spiral into alcohol or substance abuse optional. They crash and burn. Then, they find a revived success with a comeback.
In this case, Nick (Toby Huss) is the strict father who tries to discourage Al’s dreams of being a musician. When a traveling salesman (Thomas Lennon) with an an accordion stops by, Al’s Mary (Julianne Nicholson) purchases it for him after Nick comically over the top beats the salesman up. As a teen, Al learns to practice the accordion in his closet but finds himself being coerced to attend a polka party with his high school friends, further invoking his father’s ire when he is arrested by the police.
From there, Al (played as an adult by Daniel Radcliffe) struggles to find himself in a band by playing the accordion. But upon hearing the song “My Sharona” while making sandwhiches, he realizes he can do “My Bologna.” Recording a demo, he sends it off to a radio show where it’s immediately played and he tries to get a record contract from the Scotti Brothers. The real Yankovic plays real-life Tony Scotti while Will Forte plays Ben Scotti. Rejecting him at first, Al performs at a biker bar where Dr. Demento (Rainn Wilson) is in attendance where he performs “I Love Rocky Road” as his friends/roommates Jim (Jack Lancaster) Steve (Spencer Treat Clark) and Bermuda (Tommy O’Brien) also show off their musical talents. And the crowd loves them.
Dr. Demento then invites Weird Al to a party with many other celebrities, which I’m not going to reveal but it’s outrageous where he becomes more popular and then success is instantaneous. However, Al becomes frustrated with doing parodies and wants to do his own songs making “Eat It” before realizing that Michael Jackson did “Beat It.” As the musical journalists talk of the “Yankovic Bump” as his music increase sales of the songs and artist he’s parodied, Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood in a hilarious role) becomes romantically involved with Al.
From there, the movie takes a bonkers left turn that I’m not going to mention because it is so over the top, only someone like Yankovic (who co-wrote the script with director Eric Appel) could do and get away with. A lot of it’s not true but then again, most biopics take several liberties with real-life people or events, sometimes over legal issues. Speaking of Queen, there’s a good joke at the party scene and it’s because Freddie Mercury couldn’t be used.
But I’m also thinking about other movies which fudged the facts such as The Buddy Holly Story and Backbeat about the relationship between John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe, that angered other Beatles and those connected to them as well. In Sweet Dreams about Patsy Cline, it was made that her husband, Charlie Dick was very abusive. This has been greatly disputed. Cline’s own mother, Hilda Hinsley, often spoke out against the movie in interviews. They even got her death wrong as the small plane crashed into a mountain side. It actually crashed shortly after takeover.
Appel and Yankovic probably know this about all these movies. If you’re going to have to take liberties, you might as well have some fun with it. Appel based the movie on a Funny or Die short sketch he made years ago with Aaron Paul as Yankovic and Gary Cole and Mary Steenburgen as his parents.
The movie reminds me of Adaptation., the movie based on The Orchid Thief that became a self-aware movie about adapting the movie while also focusing on John Laroche but making both him and real-life writer Susan Orlean lovers who become addicted to the drug use of white orchids. A episode where Al is arrested in Florida seems to reference an arrest of Jim Morrison when The Doors played in Miami. Incidentally, the members of The Doors have spoken out against Oliver Stone who made that movie.
At 63, Yankovic has been recording and making music since he was a teenager. He also was one of the earliest artist to find success on the Internet, mainly YouTube, with his song “White and Nerdy.” For reasons that should be obvious, the movie leaves out the tragedy in 2004 when Yankovic’s parents died to carbon monoxide poisoning from a fireplace. But there’s a sweet wink to his parents as we see real-life photos of Yankovic as a child and teen with his parents over the closing credits. And dispite the way they’re protrayed here, they were always encouraging Yankovic’s music career.
It should also be noted that the band members featured in the movie are based on the real long-time bandmember of Yankovic. Jim “Kimo” West, Steve Jay and Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz have all been performing alongside Yankovic since the early 1980s. While the movie tries too hard with some of its jokes at some parts, I did find the overall movie enjoyable. Anyone who is a fan of Yankovic’s music or his cult classic comedy movie UHF will enjoy this movie.
Radcliffe does a great job of presenting an alternative version of Yankovic as well as understanding the material. However, it would’ve been more of a self-aware meta reference if Radcliffe was playing Radcliffe playing Yankovic since Hollywood always makes a big deal about child actors or comedians taking on big dramatic roles. Maybe Appel and Yankovic considered this and realized it was too much. Reportedly if Radcliff didn’t accept the role, they would have considered Adam Driver.
Yankovic actually wanted this movie to play in Los Angeles theaters to qualify for the Oscars, but it looks like it’s going to have to settle for the Emmys consideration. Hopefully, it will introduce a new generation of people to Yankovic through Radcliffe.
What do you think? Please comment.