This review is the first in my coverage of TIFF ’22, with a bunch of films that I have planned to review. This film kicked off the festival’s Midnight Madness program with its world premiere. I feel lucky and honoured to be among the first in the world to review this film.
In an industry where the biopic genre is all the rage, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is unique in its own right. Inspired by a “trailer” for a Weird Al biopic that went viral back in 2010, it has been completely fleshed out into a feature length masterclass of silliness, taking every possible biopic trope and ripping them apart. Needless to say, the film is as insane as the titular musician who co-wrote it. And I mean that as the best possible compliment I can give. This film is for people who hate the biopic genre and/or love Weird Al. I’ve been a Weird Al fan since I was a kid, so I adored this movie.
When I say this film rips apart every biopic trope in the book, I mean every trope you can think of. Do not expect an accurate telling of the life of Weird Al, and rather expect something that you never would have expected. Because while you may expect a biopic parody, the events that transpire are what you really wouldn’t expect. It’s a film that builds off of itself and raises its own bar every single scene.
From the main cast to a slew of cameos scattered throughout the film, you’ll have fun trying to point everyone out while not taking what’s on screen seriously whatsoever and having a good time. That’s what the crew wanted out of this, and they succeeded. You can see how much fun the cast was having every second of screen time. Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Weird Al, and Evan Rachel Wood, who plays Madonna (yes, you read that right), work very well off of each other. The rest of the cast is also spectacular, including Rainn Wilson as Dr. Demento and Tony Huss and Julianne Nicholson as Weird Al’s parents. Everyone in the cast really took the material to a whole new level and truly embraced its silliness. Speaking of the material, one can assume that simply writing the script – penned by both the Director Eric Appel and Weird Al himself – was its own fun. Everything about this film is meticulously built to be as ridiculous as it can possibly be, and everyone from the cast and crew understand the vision for this film and go that extra mile to knock it out of the park.
To have the musician the film is based on co-write the script is an interesting and game-changing choice that I haven’t seen in any other biopic. Of course, it is Yankovic and Appel’s genre-bending ideas that make the film truly stand out from anything else. While films like Elvis and Bohemian Rhapsody take a bunch of creative liberties in regards to accuracy in favour of drama, this film unapologetically takes and owns its own creative liberties. The result is a much more enjoyable and memorable film than the aforementioned examples that will leave you laughing long afterwards, and perhaps even make you a tad curious about what an accurate telling of Weird Al’s story would be like. But then, where’s the fun in that? This film at least gives us something that we can’t just find on a Wikipedia page.
Overall, this kooky parody film fits right into Weird Al’s entire gimmick. And of course, the result is great fun! I’d argue that leaning into his gimmick conceptually in a film about him is perhaps more effective than any of the biopics we’ve seen in recent memory. The only other film that I can think of that embraced a musician’s shtick stylistically would have to be Rocketman. Weird is truly a celebration of the Polka King’s work and is made for fans, executed in a way only Weird Al – along with a talented cast and crew – can pull off.
Film Grade: A-