‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story’ Is the Parody To End All Biopics
The "100% true and factual story of Weird Al Yankovic."
Everyone knows that most biopics are Very Loosely Based on a True Story and many of them fall into formulaic nonsense to the point where you’d think every child with unsupportive parents and a love for rock and roll is bound to be a star one day. Enter Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, the parody to end all biopics.
While there are a few facts about the actual life of Al Yankovic in the movie, the majority of it is a parody of the biopics that have come before, lampshading tired tropes such as the disapproving parents, the antagonistic love interest, the spiral due to drug use, etc. And we love this movie because of it.
Even the Mononymous Biopic Title and the movie posters are direct references to other musicians’ biopics, like Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman.
Almost every biopic gives the main character unsupportive parents who “just want them to be normal.” Al Yankovic’s parents were actually very supportive of his career, with his mother having bought his first accordion from a traveling salesman. That scene is shown in the film but taken to ridiculous ends, with Al’s father beating up the salesman for attempting to solicit to his son.
Eventually, Al’s father is so angry when Al gets caught at a Wild Teen Polka Party that he destroys the accordion in slow motion, with Al promising that he will be “perhaps not technically the best, but arguably the most famous accordion player in an extremely specific genre of music!”
Al gets inspiration for almost every one of his songs through “Eureka” moments—people saying random lines or songs playing over Al making sandwiches immediately lead to Al singing his newest hit, with no need for drafts or workshopping. This kind of unrealistic look at creative “genius” comes up in many biopics but most closely parodies moments in Ray and Walk the Line where the title song is created in a simple smash cut.
Right after Al sends off his first (and only) tape to Doctor Demento, he ruminates on his upcoming stardom. In a rare moment of genuine reality, one of Al’s roommates tells him it will probably take years to get noticed, assuming he ever gets noticed at all. But the next time they turn on the radio, Doctor Demento is playing his song, which is already the most requested song at his station. Ironically, this is somewhat factual, as Al Yankovic did get his songs played by sending them to Doctor Demento, though he had also previously done so in-person when he met his idol at age 16.
The film also intentionally makes the song dubbing as obvious as possible, with Daniel Radcliffe’s voice clearly not matching the singing voice of the real Al Yankovic and his lip-syncing frequently not matching the words, but everyone treating it as perfectly normal.
Weird Al is shown as having a cabal of friends/roommates who are the only ones who have his best interests at heart, despite not being around for a large part of the screen time and the character’s spiral. Al’s old roommates quickly become his bandmates and “true friends,” yet vanish throughout the movie and get pushed away when they are around, like Bohemian Rhapsody and Dirt.
This movie also takes the amount of celebrity cameos to a ridiculous degree. The real Weird Al cameos as Tony Scotti, the record company executive who gave Weird Al his first record deal, which is a fun callback to the Funny or Die parody.
Also, Dr. Demento’s pool party starts off as a recreation of the pool scene from Boogie Nights, with a star-studded cast of in and out-of-universe cameos including Nina West as Divine, Conan O’Brien as Andy Warhol, Jack Black as Wolfman Jack, Demetri Martin as Tiny Tim, Emo Phillips as Salvador Dalí, Paul F. Tompkins as Gallagher, David Dastmalchian as John Deacon, Jorma Taccone as Paul Reubens, and Akiva Schaffer as Alice Cooper.
Antagonistic love interest
Many biopics designate a love interest as being unsupportive, antagonistic, and/or downright abusive. Madonna takes this role in Weird, dating Al in hopes of getting him to parody her songs and give them a ratings boost. The relationship is purely fiction and is a plotline that dates back to the original Funny or Die sketch, though apparently Madonna did come up with the idea for the parody “Like a Surgeon” and pitched it to Al’s manager, Jay Levey.
Substance abuse issues
In biopics, every musician falls into a downward spiral due to Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll. Weird took cues from a whole bunch of biopics, but especially The Doors (1991) and Rocketman (2019), with Al going on stage hours after having a major DUI car crash and his drunken onstage antics resembling Jim Morrison’s. This is made even more ridiculous by the fact that Al Yankovic has stayed very clean, having turned down offers to do beer commercials and being a lifelong vegetarian.
Last-minute reconciliation with family
Biopics often feel the need to tie up the family issues with a neat little bow, so they often have the main character meet with their family one last time to lay their issues to rest. There, the character gets the resolve to do their one last great performance and an assurance that they changed their parents’ minds after all. What’s even better is Dr. Demento’s offer to adopt Al just after he made up with his parents.
This is my personal interpretation, but fat makeup used on Al’s mother may be a reference to how Rocketman (2019) had Reggie’s mother gain weight over the course of the film, and at first they hint that Al will be inspired to write “Fat,” but instead, he is inspired, by his father’s Amish upbringing, to write “Amish Paradise.”
Curtains close on death
A lot of these biopics are, of course, made about dead celebrities and, as such, end with a slow-motion or freeze-frame and a few lines summarizing the rest of the artist’s life, often known as the “Where Are They Now?” Epilogue. The film goes so far as to state that Weird Al was murdered by one of Madonna’s men and then became a zombie to exact his revenge on her (parodying Stephen King’s Carrie).
Even the credits parody the fact that biopics love to use pictures of the people they were “biographing.” But this time, the photos are hilariously doctored to play up the fact that these events totally happened and were not made up.
Not the first, hopefully not the last
Even better is that Weird Al has been making films like this for decades. He and his manager made The Compleat Al in 1985 and Weird: The Al Yankovic Story was based on the Funny or Die parody trailer. Personally, I would love a sequel that follows Weird Al, the accordion-playing zombie. Either way, I adore this movie and whether it’s a movie, sketch, or song, I can’t wait to see what parody Weird Al makes next.
What was your favorite biopic trope referenced/parodied in Weird?
(featured image: Funny or Die/Tango)
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