‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story’ Lacks An Actual Critique Of The Man Himself

Maybe we shouldn’t have anticipated a biopic on “Bizarre Al” Yankovic to be something aside from a parody. Followers who had been round within the ’80s and ’90s throughout his “Eat It” and “Amish Paradise” heyday particularly know that spoofs are form of his factor. However turning that shtick into a virtually two-hour film that incessantly ridicules its very existence?

It takes about half-hour to develop weary of that, after which “Bizarre: The Al Yankovic Story” turns into an unhinged freefall that goals for all laughs and precisely zero substance.

Directed and co-written by Eric Appel, sharing screenwriting credit with Yankovic himself, “Bizarre” begins as your typical — learn: too typical — biopic.

We meet the parody musician (Daniel Radcliffe) as an accordion-playing baby rising up in California and raised by a sheepish mom (Julianne Nicholson) and tyrannical father (Toby Huss), who oppose his curiosity in music and usually all his desires proper from the giddyup. After all, it’s that discouragement that fuels his eventual success.

‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story’ Lacks An Actual Critique Of The Man Himself
From left: “Bizarre Al” band members Steve Jay (Spencer Deal with Clark) and Bermuda (Tommy O’Brien) with “Bizarre Al” (Radcliffe) and deejay Dr. Demento (Rainn Wilson) in “Bizarre: The Al Yankovic Story.”

And sure, in fact, he simply stumbles upon his first hit, “My Bologna,” a parody of The Knack’s 1979 track “My Sharona,” whereas hanging out in his house together with his roommates making a bologna sandwich.

Fame and success — in addition to a ludicrously fictional and poisonous relationship with Madonna (Evan Rachel Wooden), whose 1984 hit “Like a Virgin” he parodied with “Like a Surgeon” — contributes to his alcohol-infused maniacism {and professional} downfall. However not too catastrophically that the biopic can’t obligatorily culminate together with his unbelievable comeback.

Sure, biopics typically observe a template, and the drama is nearly at all times amplified (or totally made up, as it’s in a lot of “Bizarre”). However doing a big-screen bit on biopics vaguely associated to Yankovic’s life and profession, irrespective of how low that fruit hangs, simply isn’t fascinating.

Definitely not in 2022, when there’s been such a complex conversation around comedy that it ought to simply open the door for a wider reflection on the enduring “Bizarre Al” phenomenon, even by the person himself.

"Weird Al" Yankovic with Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels (left) and Joseph "Run" Simmons of Run DMC.
“Bizarre Al” Yankovic with Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels (left) and Joseph “Run” Simmons of Run DMC.

Ron Galella/Ron Galella Assortment by way of Getty Pictures

What was it about his music or popular culture, notably within the ’80s and ’90s, when the movie is generally set, that allowed for a “White and Nerdy” musician to have free rein to lampoon just about any track or recording artist he needed no matter race, gender or message?

Possibly that might be higher explored in a brand new documentary, one which expands on the principal biographical information chronicled in the 1999 “Behind the Music” episode on him, or a extra goal narrative function that Yankovic doesn’t additionally write.

Although, it’s clear from “Bizarre” that the musician considers numerous biopics to be clichés. Or, not less than clichéd simply sufficient for him to riff off them with out truly addressing something associated to his artistry or motivations.

That’s definitely how Yankovic has navigated his work because the starting. Daniel Goldmark, a professor and the pinnacle of widespread music research at Case Western College, considers it a key to the extent of success Yankovic has had that surpassed any comedy musician earlier than or since him.

"Weird Al" Yankovic at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.
“Bizarre Al” Yankovic on the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.

Lee Celano/WireImage by way of Getty Pictures

“It’s like, Let’s take one thing that looks as if a completely regular setup after which one screw is unfastened, figuratively talking, after which what occurs if we simply preserve urgent on that?” Goldmark steered to HuffPost.

“So, if that’s the best way you concentrate on pop music and that’s the best way you hear issues — Oh, yeah, what occurs if… ? — And then you definitely simply type of go from there.”

That may be a fairly widespread understanding of Yankovic’s accomplishments. That and the truth that whereas he doesn’t legally want permission to file new lyrics over another person’s music, he at all times asks the recording artist for it anyway — underscoring his fame for being a genuinely harmless and nice guy. And that every little thing he’s accomplished has been purely innocuous.

Yankovic put it extra succinctly in a 2017 interview with The Washington Post. “I don’t need to harm anyone’s emotions,” Yankovic instructed the newspaper. “I don’t need to be embroiled in any nastiness. That’s not how I reside my life. I like everyone to be in on the joke and be joyful for my success. I take pains to not burn bridges.”

"Weird Al" Yankovic (Daniel Radcliffe) dazzles Oprah Winfrey (Quinta Brunson) with his gold records and his closet filled with his signature Hawaiian shirts in the new parody biopic.
“Bizarre Al” Yankovic (Daniel Radcliffe) dazzles Oprah Winfrey (Quinta Brunson) together with his gold data and his closet crammed together with his signature Hawaiian shirts within the new parody biopic.

It’s true that there’s a distinction between Yankovic and acts like Eminem or Blink-182, who extra bitterly parodied pop stars like Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys within the late ’90s and early 2000s in songs and music movies, resembling “The Real Slim Shady” and “All the Small Things.” There’s an apparent cynicism of their music that simply isn’t there in Yankovic’s.

Nonetheless, contemplating the truth that Yankovic has made an entire profession out of poking enjoyable at everybody else relatively incisively, “Bizarre” would have been a a lot smarter movie had it made room for some introspection — even in his personal signature spoof type.

Like, perhaps acknowledging that his properly intentions neglected the truth that a number of artists, notably Black, declined his use of their songs so as to preserve their social and political resonance.

Michael Jackson, who was in any other case clearly a fan of Yankovic’s work since he gave him permission to parody “Beat It” and “Bad,” declined a spoof of “Black or White.”

"Weird Al" Yankovic attends the American Music Awards on Jan. 29, 1996, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.
“Bizarre Al” Yankovic attends the American Music Awards on Jan. 29, 1996, on the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

, California. (Picture by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Assortment by way of Getty Pictures)

And Coolio very publicly took situation with Yankovic parodying “Gangsta’s Paradise,” a reality that does make it into “Bizarre” in a caricature-like manner, as a result of his file label accepted Yankovic’s request for permission with out consulting Coolio, unbeknownst to Yankovic. (The 2 later patched things up, lengthy earlier than the rapper’s loss of life this 12 months.)

Prince also declined 4 of Yankovic’s requests to make use of his songs.

It’s admirable that Yankovic revered the artists sufficient to not transfer ahead with a track they’d declined. Nevertheless it makes you ponder whether that inspired him to achieve an appreciation for social messaging in pop music, particularly since parodying James Brown’s “Living in America” with “Living With a Hernia” years prior within the ’80s.

However no such reflection or perhaps a cheeky acknowledgment occurs in “Bizarre.” It’s clear that Yankovic has the expertise to very wittingly mock widespread music however can’t appear to be ready — or need? — to show that crucial eye on himself on this manner. That is how a extra goal screenwriter may need benefited the movie.

"Weird Al" Yankovic at New York City's Beacon Theatre on Feb. 6, 2000, performing "Fat," his song parody of Michael Jackson's "Bad."
“Bizarre Al” Yankovic at New York Metropolis’s Beacon Theatre on Feb. 6, 2000, performing “Fats,” his track parody of Michael Jackson’s “Unhealthy.”

Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Pictures

On the similar time, although, there’s one thing to be stated about the truth that Yankovic’s ’80s and ’90s hits stay massively beloved and also you’d be hard-pressed to search out a lot cultural critique round his work on this period. His album “Unhealthy Hair Day,” which featured “Amish Paradise,” was his bestselling album on the time.

His music is known as inoffensive and unquestionably simple listening. Followers definitely weren’t having these conversations then, and, as Yankovic expressed in that Washington Publish interview, he went out of his technique to preserve issues gentle always.

“There’s nonetheless some stuff he doesn’t cope with,” Goldmark stated. “He doesn’t cope with intercourse, I feel, medicine, alcohol…. I really feel like that’s a part of his picture because the nerdy white man. Nerdy white guys are sq., which suggests they don’t become involved in that form of stuff.”

The professor thought of that some extra. “I feel perhaps it offers him a technique to give attention to the stuff that he enjoys,” he continued. “Like, I’m simply going to keep away from these issues. He doesn’t cope with politics an excessive amount of both. Though that may are available rather more simply, I feel, relying on the best way folks interpret his songs.”

Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood) is hot for "Weird Al" Yankovic (Radcliffe), as well as his parodies, in the over-top new film.
Madonna (Evan Rachel Wooden) is scorching for “Bizarre Al” Yankovic (Radcliffe), in addition to his parodies, within the over-top new movie.

Precisely. As a result of one other manner to take a look at it’s that Yankovic merely capitalized off a protracted historical past of nerdy white guys — typically protagonists in movies like “Sixteen Candles” and “Revenge of the Nerds” — recentered as heroic in narratives that take giant detours from actuality.

There’s been sufficient distance from this period to essentially mirror on it extra deeply with out followers haranguing Yankovic for doing one thing in an period of which he was merely a byproduct.

You might argue that Yankovic engineered his personal life in an inconceivable manner with a profession that, in some sense, appears too unbelievable to be true. He’s a broadly revered, massively profitable pop star who doesn’t essentially match contained in the prototype of a pop star and who’s managed to take photographs with out ever being on the receiving finish.

And perhaps he co-penned “Bizarre” in that very same fantastical vein, full with an absurd narrative during which he victoriously contends with Pablo Escobar.

The accordion-playing "Weird Al" Yankovic (Radcliffe) wows a live audience with his parody music in the new film "Weird: The Al Yankovic Story."
The accordion-playing “Bizarre Al” Yankovic (Radcliffe) wows a reside viewers together with his parody music within the new movie “Bizarre: The Al Yankovic Story.”

Nonetheless, it leaves rather a lot to be desired. It could have benefited from some self-examination, for example. By his personal admission to the Los Angeles Times last month, he’s “reluctant” to even do his parody music right this moment. As an illustration, he’s stopped performing “Eat It” due to the kid molestation allegations in opposition to Jackson.

Yankovic is cognizant of how the recording artists he’s parodied view his spoofs as their “I made it” second, so he’ll now not give that tribute to these he now considers unsavory. Nevertheless it’s reported within the piece that he hid his most speedy response to the query of doing parodies right this moment together with his hand over his face, implying he may be a bit extra conflicted about this.

What he truly says is: “I don’t rail in opposition to PC tradition and all that as a result of I feel when anyone is accused of being politically right, that normally simply means they’re being delicate to different folks’s emotions.”

Truthful level. However this provides a bit extra texture to his personal narrative, begging for one thing sharper and extra trenchant than “Bizarre: The Al Yankovic Story.”

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