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Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

Year: 2022
Production Co: Funny or Die
Director: Eric Appel
Writer: Weird Al Yankovic/Eric Appel
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Evan Rachel Wood, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Rainn Wilson, Julianne Nicholson, Thomas Lennon, Will Forte, Patton Oswalt, Michael McKean, Conan O'Brien, Jack Black, Seth Green

I wasn't sure what to expect from this movie – I hoped it would be funny, but I also wanted to see what it was like living in a universe where the kid who played Harry Potter played the biggest parody musical act of all time.

The only way you can characterise it is that it's a straight biopic of Al Yankovic's beginnings and his rise to fame, but all told the way you'd expect Weird Al Yankovic would tell it – where the lines between truth and fiction are first blurred, then obliterated, then any pretence the script ever cared about them abandoned entirely.

He grows up loving polka music on the accordion with a loving mother but a father who just won't accept him, joins a band, decides to make parodies of popular songs, then become a serious original performer when he gets really famous, starts dating Madonna, turns into an arsehole who's too full of success and ends up in a shootout with Pablo Escobar and his goons in a jungle drug compound.

With Escobar out of the way, Madonna tries to convince Al to give up on music and take over the dead drug lord's empire with her, sealing his ultimate fate... I don't know if the band he joined with his roommates is even factual.

Because what's funny is some if it's actually true. He was inspired to play the accordion after a visit by a travelling salesman when he was a boy. Radio personality Dr Demento (played here by Rainn Wilson) did take Yankovic under his wing, shepherding him to his first commercial success.

But he definitely didn't have a shootout with Pablo Escobar, date Madonna (she really wants him to parody her song Like a Virgin but he's a serious songwriter now – besides, he can never think of a word that rhymes with 'virgin') or become the greatest recording artist and sex symbol of all time.

And it's not just the hilarious roll call of fantasies the story develops into – the humour is multifaceted. There's stunt casting, most obvious at a Hollywood party where famous faces are visible all over the place and where Al is challenged to come up with a parody on the spot by infamous DJ Wolfman Jack (played, of course, by Jack Black).

There's absurdism, like how polka music is strictly forbidden in the 60s as Al grows up, treated with such horror by parents and police you'd think such gatherings of young people are drug fuelled orgies. Or there's the reveal about his father's dark secret and the reason he never accepted Al's talent or dreams – he was a passionate according player too, but it got him ostracised from the Amish community of his childhood.

Yankovic releases Eat It as a serious song, and is then incensed when upstart pop singer Michael Jackson releases Beat It, a parody of his heartfelt work. His mother (Julianne Nicholson) even references the real world when he goes home to visit his parents, she's put a lot of weight on, he and his dad try to dance around the fact and not mention it and she admonishes them both by saying 'I'm fat.. I'm fat. You know it.'

It's ridiculous, knowing, silly and clever all at once in equal measure and it's never less than delightfully funny – exactly like the music of Yankovic himself.

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