TIFF 2022 | Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (Eric Appel, US) — Midnight Madness

By Will Sloan

I haven’t really kept up with Weird Al Yankovic’s music since I was a kid, but I did listen to it a lot back then, to the extent that I can’t hear “Gangster’s Paradise” or “MacArthur Park” without immediately thinking of his parodies. I know a lot of people who feel the same way. A skilled musician, infectiously likeable performer, and unfailingly affable public figure, Yankovic has earned a national-treasure status unique among novelty celebrities. That goodwill does a lot to carry this spoof biopic, expanded from a short viral video, that tells Yankovic’s (almost entirely fictional) life story with faux Walk the Line (2005)-style solemnity.

Daniel Radcliffe stars as Yankovic, and Evan Rachel Wood is Madonna (the film’s femme fatale), and both play it admirably straight. Many funny people drift in and out, and there are plenty of laughs—although for me, not quite enough to distract from the fact that the definitive spoof of the music biopic has already been made, and it is Walk Hard (2007). The subplots here about Al’s disapproving father and descent into alcoholism can’t help but recall similar gags in the earlier film, and suffer in comparison. The film also suffers from its inherent one-joke nature: once it’s already established that this Yankovic bears little comparison to the real one, his increasingly outlandish escapades feel increasingly less novel across 108 less-than-drum-tight minutes. That said, the good jokes (and there are some) and the soundtrack full of catchy Yankovic classics will surely be appreciated in the right contexts, including with an enthusiastic crowd of hundreds at the Midnight Madness premiere, or as amiable background noise when the movie premieres this fall on the Roku Channel.