Review – Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

Possibly the weirdest thing about this movie is that anyone can watch it for free.  The movie currently isn’t playing in any movie theaters in the Los Angeles area (although it could be playing in theaters in other cities) so there’s no ticket to buy.  The movie can be streamed on the Roku website without paying any video-on-demand fee.  It can also be watched on the Roku app which is available on most cellphones, tablets, smart TVs, or whatever device you use to stream content on your television – although they would prefer you use the Roku streaming device (which I have) – without paying any streaming subscription.  I’m sure that eventually there will be a digital download and DVD/Blu Ray release of the movie but right now the only way to watch the movie is for free.

However, when you watch it you’ll need to sit through some commercials every few minutes.  It’s like the advertising tier that some other streaming services have except most of the other streaming services charge a subscription fee.  It’s also like watching a TV show on a regular TV network except that Roku is not a standard TV network and the movie isn’t censored for content.

This goes along well with the weird career of Weird Al Yankovic and this weird movie.  “Weird Al” became famous mostly by writing unique lyrics with the music from songs by other artists, so his movie is also a unique story based on a real life.

No one knows for sure how much of the story – which is co-written by Al Yankovic – is true, but as the movie goes on it seems less and less connected to reality.

Narrated by a person only listed in the credits as “grizzled narrator” (Diedrich Bader), the movie starts off normal with a young Al Yankovic (Richard Aaron Anderson) being raised by his mother Mary (Julianne Nicholson) and his strict father Nick (Toby Huss) who wants Al to follow in his footsteps and work “in the factory”.  No one ever reveals what the factory makes.  One day, Al answers the door and meets a door-to-door salesman (Thomas Lennon) who is selling accordions.  When his father sees the accordion, he goes into a rage and almost kills the salesman.  His mother purchases the accordion, so the salesman doesn’t sue them.  After that, despite his father’s objections, the accordion is Al’s life.  He secretly reads “dirty magazines” about accordions.  Then one day his father finds and destroys the accordion.  He forbids Al from ever playing it again.

Cut to a few years later when Al is a teen (David Bloom) and his friends finally talk him into sneaking out of his house one night to go to a polka party.  At the party, the friends use peer pressure to get Al to start playing the accordion again.  This leads to another fight with his father which makes Al leave his parents’ house.

After he’s out on his own, his career as a parody singer starts.  First, Al (Daniel Radcliffe) thinks up his first parody song “My Bologna”.  He gets some success from the song, but the music executives (the real Al Yankovic and Will Forte) reject him.  After he writes his second song, he gets noticed by Dr Demento (Rainn Wilson).  Dr Demento gives him names him “Weird Al” and, with Dr Dememto’s help, he writes more parody songs and finally gets the music executives to sign him. 

After that the movie goes fully into parody.  Weird Al becomes such a big star he decides he’s not going to do parody songs anymore.  He writes his first original song (I’m not going to spoil what the “original song” is except to say it is a real Weird Al song).  Then he starts dating Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood).  You’ll have to watch the movie to see what happens after that.

The best thing about this movie are the actors.  If you were a fan of Weird Al Yankovic, Dr Demento, or Madonna in the 80s, Daniel Radcliffe, Rainn Wilson, and Evan Rachel Wood recreate them perfectly.  Especially Evan Rachel Wood who often speaks exactly like Madonna spoke in the 80s in movies like “Desperately Seeking Susan”.  There’s also a bunch of great cameos in the movie such as the real Al Yankovic as a music executive, Conan O’Brien as Andy Warhol, Jack Black as Wolfman Jack, Josh Groban as a waiter, and Lin-Manuel Miranda as a surgeon (if you’re a fan of Weird Al songs, you know what his part inspires).  

I wish the storyline of this movie was as good as the acting.  This movie is based on a 3-minute short film of the same name that came out in 2010.  The short was written and directed by Eric Appel – who also directed and co-wrote this movie – and starred Aaron Paul as Weird Al, Olivia Wilde as Madonna, Patton Oswalt as Dr Demento, Mary Steenburgen as Mrs. Yankovic, and Gary Cole as Mr. Yankovic.  The short was very funny but extending the 3 minutes to 108 minutes – even with the help of Al Yankovic co-writing – isn’t as funny.  They basically tried to extend every 5-sec joke in the short to a 5-minute joke in the movie and then add some additional scenes that often aren’t funny.

Since you can watch the movie for free, I would suggest that you watch it if you were a fan of Weird Al or Madonna in the 80s, just for nostalgia if nothing else.  If you weren’t a fan, it’s still worth watching if you’re looking for a pretty funny movie to watch with good actors (especially if you’re a Daniel Radcliffe or Evan Rachel Wood fan).  If you weren’t alive in the 80s and you’re not a fan of those actors, then this might not be the movie for you.

I give it 6 out of 10 stars.