When a musician who has spent a long and very successful career parodying other people’s famous songs finally gets an official authorized film biography, of course it has to be a parody of other musical bio-pics. Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is by far the highest-profile piece of original content yet created for the Roku Channel. It’s also, fittingly for the subject, a whole lot of fun.
Let’s be honest, Roku Channel doesn’t have much notable original content otherwise. As modest in scale or budget as Weird may be for a film production, Roku is counting on it to put the streaming platform on the map. As such, the movie has been promoted aggressively in recent weeks, including (no surprise) on the menu screens for every Roku streaming device in active service. Given how prevalent Roku is in that space, I’d expect the movie to draw a good number of viewers curious to check it out. Plus, who doesn’t love Weird Al?
|Title:||Weird: The Al Yankovic Story|
|Release Date:||Nov. 4, 2022|
|Watched On:||Roku Channel|
Right off the bat, the casting is inspired. Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, stars as musical sensation Alfred “Weird Al” Yankovic. That’s not a combination I would have dreamed up on my own, but seeing him in character on screen feels so right and so perfect. The movie is filled with clever choices like that. Some of the most fun watching comes from the clutter of cameos by celebrities playing other celebrities. I won’t spoil them all here, but a few of the notable ones include Rainn Wilson as radio host Dr. Demento, Jack Black as Wolfman Jack, and Conan O’Brien as Andy Warhol. Even the real Weird Al turns up as a skeptical music producer. A pool party at Demento’s house will have you pausing and replaying the scene to pick out all the famous faces.
The film is structured as a bio-pic and follows all the conventions of the genre: the troubled childhood and disapproving parents, the meteoric rise to success, the burdens of fame, the drugs and alcohol abuse, the fall from grace, and the eventual redemption. Highlights include Al’s torrid romance with Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood), his career turn to abandon parodies and only focus on “completely original” songs like “Eat It” 100% written and crafted by himself and not based on anyone else’s music, and of course his reign as the most popular and successful recording artist of all time. Some of these story points may even be true. Maybe.
Clearly, this is a comedy. From the gruff-voiced narrator who sounds nothing like Al (Diedrich Bader) to the outrageous plot twists that don’t exactly line up with recorded history, the film pokes fun at all the clichés of the bio-pic genre. Even the title, Weird, while obviously referring to Al, is also a play on a terrible and long-forgotten 1989 bio-pic called Wired, starring Michael Chiklis as John Belushi. The opening scene with Al being rushed to a hospital ER for a drug overdose almost feels like a clip from that movie.
Radcliffe and the rest of the cast are all game to play. This is the very rare movie where you get the sense that everyone who appears on screen truly wanted to be part of it, and none were just taking a paycheck for a job. Through it all is somehow woven a genuine and uplifting message about accepting who you are and not letting anyone else kill your dreams, which is entirely on-brand for Weird Al.
Is Weird: The Al Yankovic Story a comedy masterpiece or the most hilarious movie of the year? Well, I haven’t seen them all, but that’s probably doubtful. The film is pretty shaggy, with a handful of really funny gags and a lot more that are only a little amusing. The pacing could also use some tightening (or maybe Roku’s ad load is just too disruptive for it). A Funny or Die production, it sometimes feels like the laughs might’ve hit harder if this were a short rather than a feature.
However, the movie is good-natured and enjoyable throughout. It has plenty of laughs to carry through the length, and I can’t think of any specific bad parts I wish were cut. Like one of Al’s own songs, it’s funny enough to leave you feeling good afterwards.
What’s more, it’s free to stream. What excuse do you have to not watch it?
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is an original production for the Roku Channel and is exclusive to that streaming platform, at least for now. The movie streams free with ads. During my viewing on the Friday premiere, I encountered about five or six ad breaks in all, each two minutes in length.
The movie is primarily presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. However, a few brief scenes (for flashbacks and TV broadcasts) are framed at 4:3 and extend beyond the height of the letterboxing. Technically, this means they’re not safe for Constant Image Height projection. However, I chose to crop those scenes to 2.35:1 on my CIH screen and still found them watchable. Some on-screen text is clipped, but the scenes are meant to stand out as looking odd anyway, and they’re short enough to not be a bother, in my opinion.
Streamed at 1080p SDR, video quality is acceptable. The image is a little soft and grainy, and colors could be more vibrant, but it looks fine for free streaming. Sadly, the audio is limited to Dolby 2.0 and sounds quite flat and compressed.
Lip sync during the musical performances is frequently poor, but that’s probably a fault of the production rather than the stream. An argument could be made that it may even be intentional.
One thought on “Nothing Rhymes with Virgin! – Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (2022)”
I really, really, really want to watch this (big ‘Weird Al’ fan), but Roku is not available over here (at least for now). Several of my friends have resorted to VPN-esque things to make their set-ups believe they’re based in America, but I’m not going to attempt that. I’ll wait for the eventual Blu-ray.