Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

STREAMING REVIEW:

Roku Channel;
Comedy;
Not rated.
Stars Daniel Radcliffe, Evan Rachel Wood, Rainn Wilson, Thomas Lennon, Spencer Treat Clark, Julianne Nicholson, Toby Huss, Arturo Castro, Will Forte, Jack Black, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Diedrich Bader, “Weird Al” Yankovic.

What else would a movie about the life of song parody specialist “Weird Al” Yankovic be but a spoof of musician biopics?

Based on a fake trailer posted by Funny or Die in 2010, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story pokes fun at the music scene and pop culture in the 1980s.

It begins with a young, misunderstood boy whose parents discouraged his dream of writing goofy new lyrics for established songs, telling him that, for the sake of the family, he should “stop being who you are and doing the things you love” and get a job at the local factory.

Instead, the adult Al Yankovic (Daniel Radcliffe) moves to Hollywood with a passion for the accordion, but is rejected by the record labels. Taking his talents to open mic nights at bars, he’s discovered by novelty act radio broadcaster Dr. Demento (Rainn Wilson), and quickly becomes the bad boy of the music industry, sparking a relationship with Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood) that takes him down a dark path and a confrontation with drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.

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Needless to say, almost none of this actually happened. But the film is a treasure trove of laughs for fans of Yankovic’s songs who will most appreciate the meta humor on display. For instance, in Al’s first meeting with the brothers who run his record label, one of them berates him as a worthless, no-talent hack while the camera cuts to the other brother, who is played by the real “Weird Al,” wincing in discomfort at the insults.

But the film’s best scene might be a take-off on the pool party from Boogie Nights, as Al is introduced to the wacky menagerie of the offbeat personalities and oddballs of the 1970s and ’80s, and is challenged by Wolfman Jack (a precision cameo by Jack Black) to come up with a parody song on the spot, which Al defiantly does to cement his path toward becoming a legend.

However, Al quickly becomes disenchanted by his success as a parody artist, and endeavors to create his own original songs. So after a drug-infused vision straight out of The Doors, he writes “Eat It,” leading to one of the film’s better running jokes that posits musicians such as Michael Jackson are actually parodying Yankovic’s songs. (There’s a bit of irony here as the real-life Yankovic has plenty of originals in his catalog, though still in a humorous vein.)

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Just to complete the journey of his life’s work, Yankovic contributes a new song for the end credits, as no blockbuster would be complete without a new tune cynically produced for awards-season bait.

There is nothing here to be taken seriously, but plenty to appreciate for the hilariously dumb fun that it is, just like Yankovic’s music.

 

Lego Star Wars Summer Vacation

STREAMING REVIEW:

Disney+;
Animated;
Not rated.
Voices of “Weird Al” Yankovic, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, Dee Bradley Baker, James Arnold Taylor, Kelly Marie Tran, Helen Sadler, Matt Lannter, Matt Sloan, Omar Benson Miller, Ross Marquand, Shelby Young, Thomas Lennon, Trevor Devall.

The “Lego Star Wars” animated specials have the uncanny ability to both parody the brand while telling interesting tales set within it, and Summer Vacation is no exception.

The core story finds the sequel-era characters getting together for a trip to the starship Halcyon — a bit of brand synergy that ties into Walt Disney World’s new immersive “Star Wars” hotel role-play experience. Set following the events of Rise of Skywalker, the special focuses on Finn’s worries that the group won’t be together much longer as they have separate destinies to fulfill — a premise that makes good use of the “family” theme introduced by John Williams in the last film.

Despite his efforts to organize group activities on the ship, they get split up, prompting Finn to sulk at the bar where he is encountered by the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi, who tells him of a time he helped a Rebel spy infiltrate Jabba’s palace by singing Karaoke at one of the Hutt lord’s parties.

Next, the ghost of Anakin Skywalker recalls a trip to the tropical beaches of Scarif (the planet from the end of Rogue One), where the Emperor insisted on winning several contests for the beachgoers due to his obsession with ruling everything.

Finally, the ghost of Leia tells of a family vacation to Endor where young Ben Solo tried to impress a girl by letting her friends steal the Millennium Falcon.

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The sight gags mostly work, but the strength of the show is in staying true to the essence of the characters, which results in some unexpected moments of sentimentality. The portrayal of the Emperor-Vader relationship is the most over-the-top, straying closer to “Robot Chicken” territory as Palpatine acts like Cobra Commander in his obnoxious quest to dominate everything.

Another highlight is the voice cameo of “Weird Al” Yankovic as the beach party MC singing “Scarif Beach Party.” This lets Al add on to his oeuvre of “Star Wars” songs that previously included “Yoda” and “The Saga Begins.”

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Daniel Radcliffe to Portray ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic in Roku Original Comedy

Roku Jan. 18 announced it has greenlit a feature film about the prolific career of Grammy-winning musician and pop cultural icon “Weird Al” Yankovic. Produced by Funny or Die and Tango, WEIRD: The Al Yankovic Story will be available exclusively on The Roku Channel. Production on the biopic begins in Los Angeles in early February.

Daniel Radcliffe, Al Yankovic

The Roku Original film will star “Harry Potter” alum Daniel Radcliffe in the title role of “Weird Al” Yankovic. The biopic aims to hold nothing back, exploring every facet of Yankovic’s life, from his meteoric rise to fame with early hits like “Eat It” and “Like a Surgeon” to his celebrity love affairs and infamous lifestyle.

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“When my last movie UHF came out in 1989, I made a solemn vow to my fans that I would release a major motion picture every 33 years, like clockwork,” Yankovic joked. “And I am absolutely thrilled that Daniel Radcliffe will be portraying me in the film. I have no doubt whatsoever that this is the role future generations will remember him for.”

Colin Davis, Roku’s head of original scripted programming, contends there is a dearth of biopic movies about famous musicians. The executive believes a movie about Weird Al is what audiences are looking for.

“This is sincerely the ultimate combination of talent, creativity, and friends, coming together to make something genuinely funny, and we could not be prouder to call this film a Roku Original,” Davis said.

WEIRD: The Weird Al Yankovic Story is written by Al Yankovic & Eric Appel. Appel will also direct the film and is an executive producer. Yankovic produces, along with Mike Farah, Joe Farrell and Whitney Hodack for Funny or Die, and Tim Headington, Lia Buman and Max Silva for Tango. Funny or Die’s Henry Muñoz III and Tango’s Neil Shah are executive producers.

“Weird Al” Yankovic is the biggest-selling comedy recording artist of all time. A five-time Grammy winner, his 2014 release, “Mandatory Fun,” was the first comedy album in history to debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top 200. He is one of only three artists to have had their own top 40 hits in each of the last four decades (the other two being Michael Jackson and Madonna). On Aug. 27, 2018, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce awarded Weird Al with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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