I openly admit to never being a big fan of musicals or overly fictionalized biopics, generally, but for this 2022 movie about the life of Weird Al Yankovic, I gladly make an exception.
So let’s dive into this little adventure full of good, fun music, starting with the childhood of little Al, who lives in a small California town with his parents.
Life is very dull, and there’s not much to do: actually, his father is so set in his strict upbringing that he won’t let him do anything but get used to the future awaiting him, which is working in a factory with his old man.
However, little Al has other big dreams; he loves to sing and write songs, or rather rewrite songs of others, but in his own way, accompanying his voice with an accordion that an unfortunate salesman left at his house after being beaten to a pulp.
Years pass, and he still has his faithful musical instrument with him while attending college, but no band seems willing to accept it.
Encouraged by his roommates, Al begins composing funny little mocking takes on popular songs such as My Sharona, which he ironically turns into a love anthem toward Bologna.
Moving on to playing live in clubs, he attracts the attention of Dr. Demento, a famous disc jockey whom he has admired since childhood, who helps him get a contract with the heads of Capitol Records, who until recently categorically rejected his songs.
The years go by, and Weird Al, as he was contemptuously called in school, becomes his battle name with which he composes one parody after another of the world’s most famous bands, finding his voice to write original songs as well and making anyone who didn’t believe in him change their mind.
Let’s make fun of life
I can’t say much about Eric Appel‘s filmography since this true/fake biopic on Weird Al Yankovic from 2022 and the subsequent Die Hart are his only two movies after a long TV career.
Indeed, we can spot his collaboration with the real Yankovic in the screenplay, who, with excellent self-irony, lends to the game and does not exclude himself from the constant jokes and teasing.
Initially, everything starts typically like so many other biopics of singers or musicians we’ve seen before.
Yankovic is a creative mind growing up among people who don’t understand him and won’t let him express himself until he finds new friends who finally believe in him.
From then on, the story takes off in earnest and reality crumbles into a series of goliardic absurdities worthy of the famous comedy directors Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker and their Hot Shots or Police Squad.
Appel’s direction matches the lighthearted lightness of this contagious madness, never trying to be severe or dramatic but instead indulging the escalation all the way to the apocalyptic confrontation against Pablo Escobar himself in the heart of the jungle to save the beautiful girlfriend, Madonna.
I equally liked Yankovic’s grounded modesty in introducing himself right off the bat, saying he is not the best musician in the world but has that passion for an art that leaves no room for anything else in your life, regardless of whether you are lousy or a genius as an artist.
Certainly, they should stay away from anyone looking for a documentary realism look at this crazy singer-songwriter’s life because there’s an exaggerated amount of fiction here, and that’s probably why I liked it so much compared to so many other similar biopics.
Then again, who cares about the truth when what we see on the screen is just great?
Less Potter and more Radcliffe; thank you
Putting a younger face on Weird Al Yankovic in this 2022 movie is the great/wee Daniel Radcliffe, an actor I’ve often mentioned on my site.
This is not to be the one who needs to go against the masses. Still, the role in his career that I liked least was the famous Harry Potter: not so much because of his performance or the rest of the cast. Still, I never got the appeal of that magical world for children.
In this case, Radcliffe is an excellent dragger who brings Yankovic’s crazy creative energy to life in his own way, just as the latter made music by starting out by simply copying what others had done and then turning it into something else entirely different and fun.
Equally good is the pairing of Toby Huss and Julianne Nicholson in playing the young singer/musician’s suffocating father and mother, although, of course, we will get the expected happy-ending reconciliation.
Although the family situations are obviously over the top, it won’t be hard for everyone to revisit the most oppressive moments of their lives, perhaps at school or in their family; those days of our adolescence where we see everything dark and the whole world appears to be mad at us.
Finally, among the others in the cast, I want to highlight the extraordinary performance of the usually beautiful Evan Rachel Wood as the young singer Louise Veronica Ciccone (a.k.a. the overly famous Madonna), who, with great opportunism and shrewdness alienates Yankovic from his friends to have the little genius all to herself.
Again, without angering fans of either singer: who cares what’s real?