The lives of musicians on screen are no stranger to parody, with documentaries and biopics well known for relying on a set of well-worn tropes and overt sentimentality making for irresistible fodder when it comes to mickey-taking.
Its been fertile ground since the 80s, when mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap cranked it to 11 with its take on the lives of a British rock band, with the biopic coming more directly under the microscope with 2007's now much beloved Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. The two approaches combined to gut-busting effect with 2016's Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, with those three films making up the holy trinity of musical-based spoofing.
It is hard not to think of one or all three of these films when met with something like Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. The largely – let's face it 99.99% – fictitious account of the life and times of pop-parody artist Weird Al Yankovic (played by Daniel Radcliffe) is the subject this time out, in a film that leaves no biopic cliche unmocked and no absurdist corner left unchecked. It clearly aims to be part of the panic, and the simply pleasures it conjures from just being so unadulteratedly silly means it can sit comfortably amongst its peers.
Its absurdist approach is perhaps more akin to something like Anchorman, or the Tenacious D movie Pick of Destiny, as the film reimagines Yankovic's life as a tale of a rock legend burdened with a musical genius, fuelled by drugs, women and booze. Anyone who is a fan or knows much about the real man knows this to be so far from the truth: the real Yankovich is a shy and introverted Christian who claims to have never touched any drugs or alcohol.
But such an approach is appropriate for a wacky non-biopic about the man who brought us such hits as ‘Pretty Fly For a White Guy' and ‘Amish Paradise', with the film having a great deal of fun both at numerous pop stars and Al's own expense. There's a sense that everyone is in on the joke and you've walked into an extended comedy bit being performed by friends who just happen to have a camera on, and it makes the whole enterprise modulate from silly to something that feels genuinely quite sweet.
It doesn't all work. The gag rate is so intense and not everything sticks, and there comes a point where it all starts to feel quite exhausting. Keeping up with the insanely game cast feels like a sprint at times, with the film itself often feeling like it's starting to pant come the final stretch. It is obvious that this is a film based on a Funny Or Die sketch as it becomes a bit stretched thin. It also comes out the gate with so many inspired gags in Al's childhood and early career days – a pool party populated by artists, musicians and cameos galore is a high point – that it is no wonder that it occasionally struggles to reach its own benchmark.
What keeps you going till the end though is Daniel Radcliffe. The charismatic performer is giving 110% at every turn. Ripped, moustached and donning a fabulous series of Hawaiian shirts, Radcliffe embraces the weird to bring to life a version of Al that feels oddly genuine, coming from a place of real heart and passion despite all the mistruths along the way. He's the anchor of the whole silly enterprise complete with Al's gloriously daft songbook, Weird: the A; Yankovic Story feels destined for cult adoration much like the real man himself. And if it inspires you to give Dare To Be Stupid a spin, then that's no bad thing.
Very funny, oddly sweet and a little exhausting: Weird doesn't quite hit the heights or banish the memory of superior music spoofs before it. But there is plenty to enjoy when you join in with Radcliffe and grab the weird by the curls and let the accordion rock take you away. Eat It!
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is available on The Roku Channel form November 4, 2022