Watch: Trailer for comedy biopic Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
For those of us in Britain, the 2000s were a boom time for the comedic singing sensation known as Weird Al Yankovic. The infamous file-sharing service Limewire was a gateway drug for many curious teenagers – this writer included – to discover the work of the California-born accordionist, who has been recording and releasing musical parodies since appearing on the radio at the age of 16. -former in 1976.
With songs like ‘Another takes the bus‘Eat it’ and ‘Like a surgeonYankovic has become a household name in the world of comedy music – selling over 12 million albums worldwide.
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At one point, virtually every parody song ever written was credited to him online, as there is an exhaustive web page of tracks he absolutely did not perform, contrary to internet tradition.
Now Yankovic’s life — so to speak — is making its way to the movies, with Bizarre: the story of Al Yankovic. Starring Daniel Radcliffe as the man himself and featuring a series of comedic cameos, it’s the most ridiculous subversion of the “biopic” genre in years. We have to see it before we believe it.
What is Bizarre: the story of Al Yankovic on?
It’s not even close to correct to call Bizarre: the story of Al Yankovic a biopic. Its origins lie in a 2010 sketch Funny or Die, which parodied serious musical biopics with a trailer for a film based on Yankovic. Aaron Paul played Yankovic in this trailer, which contains many moments that appear in the finished film.
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As if anticipating concerns about historical accuracy, the film doesn’t even attempt fidelity to truth. Co-written by Yankovic and director Eric Appel – best known for his work on sitcoms like new girl and Brooklyn nine-nine – it starts out as if it’s going to be a pot story of a young child outcast’s journey from secret childhood accordionist player to global cult superstar.
Then it goes off the rails pretty quickly.
Some details are true, or at least close to the truth. The US office Star Rainn Wilson plays Dr. Demento – the comedy broadcaster who gave Yankovic his big break. Some details, however, are far from real. Evan Rachel Wood plays Madonna in the film as a manipulative star hoping to woo Yankovic and use her fame to boost her own career via parody like a surgeon. In fact, Yankovic says he met Madonna for 45 seconds and, unsurprisingly, their encounter was strictly platonic.
The film features a huge selection of cameos from the world of comedy, including various members of The Lonely Island, Jack Black, Lin-Manuel Miranda, drag queen Nina West and Yankovic himself – reprising his role as record executive at from the original sketch. Many cameo stars play real-life characters, and there are some brilliant surprises.
To say things are getting absurd would be an understatement. The suggestion that Yankovic had sex with Madonna doesn’t even make it into the top 10 weirdest moments.
how can i watch Bizarre: the story of Al Yankovic United Kingdom?
Weird is the first original film to be released in the UK via The Roku Channel. Roku is a free streaming service available to anyone with access to one of the devices that support it. This includes devices the company makes itself – Roku TVs and streaming players – as well as through Sky Q and NOW.
As with other Roku Originals – including the various TV shows that debuted in the US on the ill-fated Quibi short-form streaming service – Bizarre: the story of Al Yankovic is available to stream for free.
It was released in the UK via The Roku Channel on November 4. So anyone with Sky Q, a NOW device, or a Roku player can enjoy the weirdness for free.
East Bizarre: the story of Al Yankovic all good?
It’s hard to explain why Bizarre: the story of Al Yankovic works so well because every adjective you immediately want to use sounds like a criticism. The movie is absurd, ridiculous, silly and, without a doubt, the dumbest movie of the year. It’s also one of the funniest.
Read more: The best musical biographical films
Appel and Yankovic’s commitment to silliness means that precision – constantly top of mind during a biopic – is entirely secondary to what would be the funniest outcome of any given scene. While at times it all threatens to unravel like an improv comedy riff taken too far, it never loses control and instead chooses to revel in the fine line it walks.
The tone flips wildly between knowingly over-the-top set pieces and pitch-perfect twists on the kind of playbook sequences common to many musical biopics like Bohemian Rhapsody or this year’s Elvis. Although it doesn’t achieve instant classic status as a true comedy masterpiece Popstar never stop never stopit’s a worthy addition to the canon of parodies of the music industry’s determination to take itself as seriously as possible.
It helps that Radcliffe – as with so many of his unconventional roles – has an absolute grasp of the tone in which the film operates. He’s deadpan and serious when the scene calls for it, but equally willing to explode with manic energy or a macho action hero fantasy. It’s a committed performance from an actor with obvious affection for his subject. Wood, too, has a lot of fun chewing up the scenery with sexually charged abandon as the Machiavellian Madonna.
Weird is a film that rewards those who are ready to say goodbye to reality and dive headlong into its world of anarchy and accordions. It has a gag rate that most studio comedies would kill to match and a central performance of such intelligence and control that – if it were in a serious film – would be a sure contender for recognition of rewards.
Critical response so far has been mostly enthusiastic, with 92% of reviews from review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes providing a positive response. He also won the People’s Choice Award for Midnight Madness at the Toronto Film Festival. So it’s worth firing up The Roku Channel and taking a look.
Watch: Weird Al Yankovic clarifies his relationship with Madonna