There is an ultrahigh funny consistency in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story before the hilarity frequency is turned down a notch as it plays on. Focused on pop’s most famous parody artist, it’s appropriate that the film is a sendup of the musical biopic genre. Director Eric Appel and Yankovic himself penned the screenplay which cheekily casts Daniel Radcliffe as the man with the accordion.
As a youngster, Al’s father (Toby Huss) would rather see his boy working in the factory (where they make mysterious “things”) than making songs. Mom (Julianne Nicholson) buys him the harmonious box organ behind Dad’s back. Soon a teenage Al is busted for experimenting with the instrument at a party (the accordion uproariously stands in for hard drugs) and he’s on his own. At college and with the encouragement of three roommates turned bandmates, he becomes the biggest pop star in the world with his spoof tracks.
Similar to Bohemian Rhapsody, we take a journey through the creation of “My Bologna”, “Another One Rides the Bus”, “Eat It”, and “Like a Surgeon”. These segments are more exaggerated (slightly) than those in Rhapsody. The latter tune is manifested through his whirlwind tryst with the ambitious and conniving Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood, doing a fine impersonation). As for his largest smash “Eat It”, the script cleverly insists it was Michael Jackson ripping off Al.
Radcliffe is a pleasure to watch (the real Al plays a music exec) as he makes the tragic rock star journey. There are cameos galore including Jack Black as a taunting Wolfman Jack and a noted late night host as Andy Warhol (pay attention). Rainn Wilson is Dr. Demento, the radio host who gave the Weird one his big break (no exaggeration).
When we reach a Hot Shots! level of silliness with Al going Rambo at Pablo Escobar’s birthday bash, it all begins to wear a bit thin. Most of the time this is as fun and irreverent as its subject’s creations. No bologna.
*** (out of four)