Daniel Radcliffe is "Weird" Al Yankovic in the Roku Channel's ‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.'

Daniel Radcliffe is "Weird" Al Yankovic in the Roku Channel's ‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.'

Streaming via the Roku Channel, ‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story’ aims to do for parody song expert ‘Weird’ Al Yankovic what ‘Walk The Line’ did for Johnny Cash or ‘Ray’ for Ray Charles. Just in funnier form.

More in line with parodies of the genre such as ‘Walk Hard’, ‘Weird’ takes the concept of the music star biopic and absolutely goes for broke in a style that recalls the ‘Naked Gun’ movies or the ‘Airplane!’ films of Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrams and David Zucker’s time.

Yankovic, let’s not forget, made cameos in all three ‘Naked Gun’ films.

Directed by Eric Appel, a veteran of the ‘Funny or Die’ site (and loosely based on short online trailer version hosted there, which stars ‘Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul as Yankovic), the film, co-written by Yankovic and Appel, chronicles a large swathe of Yankovic’s early life and career.

Except, this is a far from factual account, which seems fitting for a man who has made a career out of funny parody songs, big hair and a talent for the accordion.

His successful career – he’s the biggest-selling comedy recording artist of all time, with five Grammys under his belt, a 2014 release in ‘Mandatory Fun’ that became the first comedy album in history to debut at #1 on Billboard’s Top 200 and being one of only three artists to have had their own top 40 hits in each of the last four decades – is certainly material for a solid movie. But it’s much more entertaining that the musician and Appel have liberally invented milestones in his life.

Daniel Radcliffe as 'Weird Al' Yankovic in The Roku Channel's 'Weird: The 'Weird Al' Yankovic Story.'

Daniel Radcliffe as 'Weird Al' Yankovic in The Roku Channel's 'Weird: The 'Weird Al' Yankovic Story.'

After an in media res opening with Yankovic being rushed into surgery, we’re introduced to young “Alfie” as a kid (played by Richard Aaron Anderson) who lives with his sensitive, understanding mother Mary (Julianne Nicholson) and his no-nonsense, god-fearing father Nick (Toby Huss), who expounds on his work at a local factory and how if Al would only agree to let him “put a word in”, the job would make a man out of him. Never mind that it has a higher fatality rate than 'Spinal Tap’s drummers.

Fate intervenes when a door-to-door accordion salesman (Thomas Lennon) stops by, and while he’s roundly assaulted by Nick for tempting the young Yankovic with the “demonic” instrument, Al’s mother quietly buys it for him in secret.

That leads to a brief, even funnier section in which teenage Al (David Bloom) is introduced to the concept of polka parties where his skills make him a big hit – at least until the police raid the home of one of his friends.

Soon, we’re catching up with college-age Al (now Daniel Radcliffe, who commits completely to the role, even if he doesn’t totally nail Yankovic’s voice), who in a memorable sequence, invents his first big parody song with ‘My Bologna’ after hearing The Knack’s ‘My Sharona’ on the radio while making sandwiches for his encouraging roommates.

Making fun of movies such as ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, where famous songs are generated seemingly out of nowhere for dramatic effect, the tone here is purely one of fun.

Quinta Brunson as Oprah Winfrey, and Daniel Radcliffe as "Weird Al" Yankovic in The Roku Channel's 'Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.'

(L to R) Quinta Brunson as Oprah Winfrey, and Daniel Radcliffe as "Weird Al" Yankovic in The Roku Channel's 'Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.'

With an assist from radio DJ Dr. Demento (Rainn Wilson) and a performance at a punk club that goes surprisingly well, Al is on his way, even if he has yet to impress snobby music executives (played amusingly by Will Forte and the real Yankovic, who has a blast demeaning and critiquing his avatar).

Things snowball from there, with Yankovic becoming hugely famous, attracting the attention of Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood), who becomes his tempestuous lover and Pablo Escobar (Arturo Castro), his biggest fan – who will later cause problems for him.

It’s a wild and wooly ride, going for broke at every moment and squeezing as much humor as possible out of Yankovic’s life with a hilariously fake history. Yet somehow, if often comes across as less preposterous as some real-life biopics.

Radcliffe, who in his post-‘Harry Potter’ career has proved one of the most game and adaptable young actors, here shows comedy chops, slapping on a curly wig and fake Moustache to bring Al to life (with a little help from the real-life version when it comes to the songs).

He’s vanity-free, nimble and funny, and matched in the leading stakes by Wood, who brings ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’-era Madonna to life with verve and an endless supply of chewing gum.

Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna

Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna in the Roku Channel's ‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.'

Real-life people crop up all over the place, usually played by comedians and comedy-focused actors including Quinta Brunson as Oprah Winfrey, Conan O’Brien as Andy Warhol, Akiva Shaffer as Alice Cooper and Jack Black as Wolfman Jack, who, along with Queen’s John Deacon (David Dastmalchian) challenges Al to come up with a new song at one of Demento’s pool parties.

The result, like the ‘My Bologna’ scene, is the spontaneous birth of ‘Another One Rides the Bus’, sending Deacon off embarrassed.

‘Weird’s entertainment value dips a little towards the end, where the tone becomes ever zanier and the joke can’t quite sustain a full-length film, but before that happens, it has easily earned its place among great spoofs.

Yankovic’s descent into the typical drink, drugs and sex scene of some hard partying rockers is even funnier when you know that in his real life, he’s a clean-living vegetarian whose late parents were incredibly supportive.

This is an artist getting the chance to live out their fantasy of how their career might have turned out, were it not for the fact that they were successful on their own terms and never fell into such clichéd ways.

We’re grateful he found a way to do it, though, as it makes for an even funnier story than some of his songs.

‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story’ receives 3.5 out of 5 stars.

The Roku Channel's 'Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.'

The Roku Channel's 'Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.'

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

"The world belongs to the weird."
67
PG-131 hr 48 minOct 6th, 2022