Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story ★★★★½

There’s a very short list of musicians in history that can say they have had a hand in shaping (or parodying) popular music culture for over six decades and co-written a “100% accurate-true-to-life” biopic on themselves; because I’m pretty sure the only person on that list is “Weird Al” Yankovic, who is the subject of TIFF’s opening night Midnight Madness selection WEIRD: The Al Yankovic Story.

Born out of the viral Funny or Die web video from 2010, originally created by the film’s director and co-writer Eric Appel, WEIRD expands on the 3-minute fake trailer into a quintessential absurd antithesis of a biopic that, similar to Yankovic’s body of work, turns the genre on its head, slaps it around a bit (literally), and is wholeheartedly sincere in the most tongue in cheek fashion. The moment you see Thomas Lennon get repeatedly punched in the face five minutes in, you know you’re in for a good time.

Depending on your love of Yankovic (yours truly is, unsurprisingly, a lifelong “Al-coholic”), the silliness factor is turned up to 27, where you can tell that everyone involved is in love and committed to the bit from the get go, from Daniel Radcliffe’s best comedic turn in a film since Swiss Army Man, to Evan Rachel Wood’s phenomenal performance as a very malicious Madonna, Rainn Wilson’s uncanny portrayal as Dr. Demento, to a slew of “who’s who” cameos from friends, collaborators, and admirers throughout Yankovic’s career.

It's no surprise that those who are familiar Yankovic’s sense of humour and backstory are going to be in love with this film, though sometimes it does lean a bit too much into the insider baseball references that may isolate casual fans and listeners. A sequence in the third act involving Pablo Escobar, which albeit is a great callback to a moment earlier in the film, goes into more of a “Comedy Bang Bang” territory that many people in the rambunctious Midnight Madness audience did not expect, and as a result seemed to be a moment that pulled the energy out of the room for a few minutes.

Expecting WEIRD to be similar in the vein of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is not a fair comparison to make. Both are brilliant in their own ways. If you’re going to make a biopic on yourself, on your own terms, and present the film in a context that does not even intend on taking itself seriously, (especially to the point where the closing credits song, Yankovic’s first original release since “The Hamilton Polka” in 2018, points out that it’s eligible for Best Original Song at next year’s Oscars), there’s only one way to go out. Yankovic and Appel crack the biopic code in a way that other musicians living today, who are planning their own biopic in the near future, wish they could emulate.

Also, shoutout to the film's editor Jaime Kennedy, who handed out stickers that said "Keep TIFF Weird". You're awesome!

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