When Weird: The Al Yankovic Story was first announced with Daniel Radcliffe in the leading role, some viewers were confused. Not only does Radcliffe look nothing like the musician in the title, but his participation in the Roku film seemed like an odd role for him. Then fans learned this isn't your typical biopic, and the entire story began clicking into place.
Weird is produced by Funny or Die and is as much a parody as any one of Weird Al's songs. Sure, the film follows the same format many biopics do: There's the troubled upbringing, the rise to fame, and the event that threatens to unravel it all. That's where the similarities end, however.
With a cast that includes Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna, Rainn Wilson as Dr. Demento, and Quinta Brunson as Oprah Winfrey, each scene is more ridiculously committed and wild than the last. It all adds up to a biopic parody that has left many fans claiming Weird Al has done it again.
Read on for five ways Weird: The Al Yankovic Story isn't your typical biopic, but why you may enjoy it anyhow.
Many musical biopics over the past few years have claimed authenticity during the films' promotional campaigns, only for fans (and sometimes those who were actually involved) to claim otherwise. In that way Weird is on a different playing field than such films as Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman, or Elvis. Although it is presented as fact, the skewed storylines are clearly closer to fiction, with no room for confusion.
Weird is presented by actors who are committed to their roles. Radcliffe isn't trying to be funny, for example, when he's named the Sexiest Man Alive. Wilson presents Dr. Demento as a mad genius. Wood's take on Madonna as an artist who will do anything to get to the top — even take on Pablo Escobar — borders on maniacal.
But it's those increasingly outlandish situations in which these characters find themselves that lend itself to the unexpected tone. Some scenes (such as the police busting Yankovic for performing at a high school polka party or an LSD trip to hell) are meant to be so over-the-top they clearly aren't real. Still, viewers are expected to go with it because that's part of the fun.
The most authentic thing about Weird is the soundtrack, which is comprised of actual Weird Al gems from over the years. All the classics are there, from "My Bologna" and "Like a Surgeon," to "Eat It" and even "Amish Paradise." Of course the way in which the character comes up with these songs in the film is far from what really happened and adds to the overall tone. (No spoilers though, because it's more fun to watch the scenes play out.)
Also of note is that it's Yankovic who sings each song on the track. Although Radcliffe sang for the purposes of filming, his voice was dubbed over for that extra layer of authenticity in the final cut.
Director Eric Appel (who is also a co-writer) is mostly known for episodic television including Son of Zorn, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Die Hart. However, he was hired for this gig after he created a fake trailer for the movie as a Funny or Die sketch. In that iteration Aaron Paul played Yankovic, Patton Oswalt was Dr. Demento, and Olivia Wilde was Madonna. Gary Cole, Mary Steenburgen, and Paul Scheer also appeared in the nearly three-minute bit, but although the faces were different, the story and sentiment were very, very similar to what plays out in the feature-length version.
This movie is an extension of that sketch, making it bigger and bolder in the process.
Typically when a musical biopic is announced, not everyone who is featured is still alive and around to give their blessing or offer their participation. Weird Al didn't just OK this movie, he co-wrote it and makes a cameo as Tony Scotti, a record producer, within it. He also composed a new song, titled "Now You Know," for the film's end credits, making himself a potential Oscar nominee in the process.
Even more notably, Yankovic was on set every day for the 18-day shoot to make sure the movie turned out the way he envisioned it. The result is his answer to some of those other biopics, which skew the facts for dramatic purposes. Like the catchy parodies Yankovic is known for, the performer just wanted it all to go off the rails.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story debuts Nov. 4 on the Roku Channel.