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TIFF 2022 Review – Weird: The Al Yankovic Story – “A film full of abundant laughs and so many cameos”

Courtesy of TIFF

“What. Is. Happening?”

It was a question I asked myself in disbelief more than once while watching Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.  Yet I was asking it alongside mine and everyone else’s laughs in a very full theatre – definitely the way this film should be experienced.

The best way I can describe Weird, is if Weird Al wrote a song about his life and made it into a movie. Biopic maybe, but Al Yankovic is, as co-writer and director Eric Appel said in the film’s Q&A period, squeaky clean.  There are no skeletons in his closet, no scandals to provide cinematic fodder.  The man doesn’t even swear.  So how do you make the most ‘rock ‘n roll’ movie about the world’s most niche accordion player? You have Al Yokovic himself co-write it, and you make it his biggest parody yet, taking from many musical biopics that came before it and perhaps ever so slightly, from the TV series Narcos.

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The idea stemmed from a short film that Appel did in 2010, that appears like a movie trailer for Weird.  In it, Aaron Paul plays Yankovich alongside Olivia Wilde as Madonna.  Yankovich even used the short in his shows, but kept getting asked by fans when the movie was coming out.  Over a decade later, we now have this iteration where a brilliant Daniel Radcliffe dons the curly hair and a very game Evan Rachel Wood embodies the ‘Like a Virgin’ singer.  And it certainly lives up to the title.

There are nuggets of truth I’m sure in this film, but it’s also so obviously a parody that you should trust nothing.  We meet Al as a youngster, where his mother (Julianne Nicholson) secretly buys him an accordion he must ‘play quietly’ (is that possible?) in order to hide it from his overbearing father (Toby Huss) who sees his son’s only future as working down at the factory.  We don’t know what they make there, but Al knows that’s not for him.  The good news is that as he gets older and moves out of the house he finds a group of friends that encourage his musical ambitions.  But like many a musical biopic, Al soon changes when he is awarded instant and overnight fame and that’s amplified further once the influence of Madonna comes into his life.

Not every joke in Weird lands, but those that do are often hilarious.  It’s a film full of abundant laughs and so many cameos.  The last act becomes somewhat of a Weird Al fever dream, but if you go with it you’ll enjoy the ride.  By the time this part of the movie comes along you should know not to take anything seriously.

If you’re not a fan of Yankovic’s music this absolutely absurd and outrageous comedy is likely not for you.  There might be some disappointed Harry Potter fans out there, but if you’ve followed Radcliffe’s career at all you’ll find this choice of role feels completely appropriate.  Even the most casual of Yankovic fans will find so much to love here, as the film revisits so many of his hits (with Radcliffe lip-syncing), including “Eat It”, “Another One Rides The Bus,” and “Amish Paradise”.  Stay through the credits for a brand new song that I’d love to see nominated in the Original Song category at the Oscars.  Hey, stranger things have happened.  Including this glorious movie.

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