Sensationally Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

Photo: Roku Originals.

From the director of a Funny or Die sketch of the same name, Eric Appel, with the outrageous mind of the man himself, “Weird Al” Yankovic, comes the ultimate bio-spoof: Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. It’s fun and entertaining, a parody critique that unfortunately fails at times to separate itself from the masses.

A young Al Yankovic (Richard Aaron Anderson) and a teenage Al Yankovic (David Bloom) fight against the hard grain of his father, Nick Yankovic (Toby Huss). In a rebellion sequence similar to a young Ray Charles in Ray, the young Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody or young Elton John in RocketmanWeird depicts an artist emerging from a rough working-class background, and with Al Yankovic, it provides much of the same but with the hilarious twist of polka, not rock and roll.

Then we roll out of Nick Yankovic’s shadow when the grown Al Yankovic (Daniel Radcliffe) moves out of his parent’s place and into a crowded apartment with three other young men, who will eventually become his backing band. Al experiences overnight stardom, mentorship from his idol, and a multi-platinum album!

At a party thrown by Al’s mentor Dr. Demento (Rainn Wilson), we get one of my favorite scenes in the film: a pool party stacked to the brim with comedy legend cameos cameoing as legendary artists, music or otherwise: Wolfman Jack (Jack Black), Gallagher (Paul F. Tompkins), Tiny Tim (Demetri Martin), The Lonely Island’s Akiva Schaffer as Alice Cooper and Jorma Taccone as Pee-Wee Herman, Emo Phillips as Salvador Dali, Conan O’Brien as Andy Warhol, Emo Phillips as Salvador Dali, Elijah Wood as Phil Collins and Nat Faxon as Gilbert Gottfried. I’m pretty sure there was someone in the likeness of Elvira, the mistress of darkness, another as Elton John, and someone as David Bowie. It was an absolutely beautiful mess that felt a bit like Where’s Waldo, but what put it over the top was the way Appel and Yankovic put all of these legends in a comedy radio host’s backyard, had them circle Radcliffe and participate in the improvisation of “Another One Rides the Bus.”

So many times during this wild ride of a film did my jaw slacken at its ridiculousness. After a 10-hour relationship with Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood), Weird Al has become an alcoholic mess, driven drunk, risen from death, disintegrated his relationship with his mentor and bandmates/friends, destroyed his career, and TAKEN DOWN PABLO ESCOBAR (Arturo Castro).

To say that Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is weird would be an understatement! This movie is batsh*t crazy. This film throws history out the window and writes a story so outlandish it makes the real “Weird Al” Yankovic look simple, plain and humble. It does not remotely represent the real-life of “Weird Al” Yankovic, yet it is the truest to his character a biopic can get. It goes as far as to claim that his song “Eat It” was an original, and Michael Jackson spoofed it when he came out with “Beat It.” The exaggerated “Weird Al” Yankovic, played by Daniel Radcliffe, bloats the ego of his fictitious character to the point where the tortured artist trope comes tumbling down.

I admire Weird Al’s humor and Eric Appel’s direction. The film can bounce from genre to genre as Radcliffe’s Al becomes some kind of combat expert late into the movie during an action sequence that came entirely out of left field. “Weird Al” Yankovic’s biggest hits, intertwined with the brilliant score by Leo Birenberg and Zach Robinson, created a mixed ambience for humor and emotion. Delightful!

However, I took issue with a few things and funnily enough, they all have to do with female characters:

1. This film does not pass the Bechdel test.

2. Did they have to turn Madonna into a femme fatale?

3. Was it really necessary to put Mary Yankovic (Julianne Nicholson), Al’s mother, in a fat suit?

Aside from these, the movie is very good, but I can’t exactly ignore them. I understand this is about a man, and if your life doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, how would your biopic? Well, it’s a spoof, isn’t it? So, it was possible. Maybe that’s a nitpicky thing for me to point out. It’s certainly not something I bring up in every movie I watch and every review I write. However, I find an issue with it this time because of a central female character’s portrayal.

Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna in Weird Al's mansion when they fist meet
Evan Rachel Wood in Weird. Photo: Roku Originals

Real-life Madonna isn’t perfect; no one is. Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is a parody; I know it isn’t declaring, “This is what Madonna is like! Beware!” And, however Appel and Yankovic wrote this plotline into the script, most likely intending to parody the portrayal of women and romantic partners in other biopics; I still can’t let this slide. It didn’t sit right for me.

Perhaps the obviousness of Madonna’s pushy perversion punched home the obnoxious portrayal of women and romantic partners in other biopics for some; for me, it played into the same trope. There were plenty of ways they could have punched up Madonna’s character while still making her a villain that didn’t entirely blame it all on vanity and femininity. I liked how they concluded her story; I think that was great and a real twist, but I still feel that there should have been more layers to her character or an explanation on her part that expanded her motivation. Parody comes with critique, and this parody didn’t critique the former representations of women and romantic partners in other biopics enough for me. Ultimately it’s just disappointing to see in a film I otherwise love.

It is my opinion that we should burn all fat suits. What is the point, if only to humiliate fat people further? To make them feel worse despite the constant systemic anti-fat bias they face?

I have absolutely no idea what possessed Appel and Yankovic to include Mary Yankovic (Julianne Nicholson) in a fat suit in their script, especially for such minuscule scenes. Sure, Nick Yankovic declares his love for his wife despite her weight gain, but I fail to see how it adds anything to the plot in the grand scheme.

It was senseless, unnecessary, and a gross misjudgment on Appel and Yankovic’s part at what might be seen as a last grab at humor for an otherwise transformative scene for their main character. Why put her in a fat suit? It just doesn’t make any sense, and despite my love for this movie, all I can see in this instance is cruelty. Perhaps someone with 20/20 vision and crystal-clear hearing will prove me wrong, but I doubt it because, regardless, it is my opinion that we should burn all fat suits.

Quinta Brunson as Oprah Winfrey interviewing Weird Al (Daniel Radcliffe) in his closet
Quinta Brunson and Daniel Radcliffe in Weird. Photo: Roku Originals

If you can look past those things, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is a certified romp. Daniel Radcliffe is hilarious, wild, and a joy to watch. He’s truly made a name for himself as an obscure actor in recent years with Miracle Workers and Swiss Army Man. It was a sweet treat to watch Quinta Brunson as Oprah Winfrey; her performance was subtle, a much earlier, younger version of the “You get a car! You get a car!” icon we know and love today. Arturo Castro as Pablo Escobar was fun and kooky; Conan O’Brien as Andy Warhol sat by the pool talking to Emo Phillips as Salvador Dali about Weird Al was brilliant and unexpected!

It’s unfortunate that it missed the mark with the representation of women in speaking roles and for instances that don’t even last very long on screen. It did seem like they tried to be inclusive because there are drag queens roaming around at that insane pool party! If any, watch the movie and make up your own mind, are my grievances easily forgiven in an otherwise masterful comedy?

You can stream the film for free with ads on The Roku Channel.

Written by Isobel Grieve


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  1. Yes!!!! I literally googled “fat suit mom weird al movie why” and agree with all your critiques. It seems bananas to me that they would include the fat suit EVEN IF it’s a reference to the video. Why. Also. As a Patreon supporter of the Bechdel Cast podcast, I immediately tried to think of a single scene with two women and couldn’t. Everything else was so slick and self aware but the misses were pretty big. Bummer.

  2. Um, I think the fat suit worn by the mother character was a reference to “Fat”, Yankovic’s parody of the Michael Jackson song “Bad”, as the parents are talking about having new ideas for songs and the father says “You know it”, a quote from the lyrics of said song. Just sayin’.

    • Yes, the fat suit was a set-up for one joke: it referenced Weird Al’s parody “Fat.” And as a joke in this movie, it fell pretty flat. It was a poor choice all around, in bad taste, sexist, and unnecessary.

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