Review – Harry Potter Gets Weird (“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story”)

At first, I didn’t get it. Was this just another pretentious biopic of a musician like Rocketman or Ray? Then, after watching the full trailer, I finally got the joke! Just like one of Weird Al’s songs, this movie about Al Yankovic is a parody of his own life! How brilliant is that?!

If you saw Yankovic’s highly exaggerated 1979 movie parody UHF, then you know what you’re in for. We first see a young Al Yankovic (David Bloom) who walks a tightrope of desperately trying to please his demanding parents (Julianne Nicholson and Toby Huss) and wanting to just be himself. His one release? An accordion! After the police raid a polka party he’s at (yeah, it’s that kinda movie!), a college-age Al (Daniel Radcliffe) strikes out on his own and lives with three other roomies. It’s here he polishes his gift for song parodies (My Bologna), which gets major radio air time, but he still gets laughed at by the Scotti Bros. record producers (Al Yankovic & Will Forte).

At a gig, Al and his band acquire their manager, radio DJ, Dr. Demento (Rainn Wilson), who delivers the goods. Poking fun at every music biopic ever made, all clichés and tropes you’ve seen in past movies are skewered and deliciously lampooned. Al’s songs rocket him to super-stardom which gets him the gaudy, gigantic mansion, and soon he acquires his “Yoko”, the Svengali-like singer, Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood). Taking over, she turns the innocent Al into a drunken slob who almost dies on stage doing a wicked parody of Jim Morrison.

Act three goes into action-hero territory as Al takes down drug czar Pablo Escobar (Arturo Castro) and later, after cleaning up his act and going home to his parents, goes back to the stage to win the hearts of his fans. And none of this ever happened! Written by Yankovic and director Eric Appel (Brooklyn 9-9, Son of Zorn), this movie is one continuous joke and gag after another, much like UHF or A Million Ways To Die In The West. It’s hilarious from start to finish but my one question is why is this only on the Roku Channel? It’s so funny and entertaining, that it should have been on a more accessible platform like Netflix, Prime, or even Hulu. I’ve never needed Roku up until now.

Anyway, you can tell Radcliffe is having a blast playing this alternate universe of Yankovic, as he fully immerses himself into this crazy version with wild abandon. And oh! The cameos! There are SO many actors that pop up for a brief role that it’s like a celebrity Where’s Waldo. The pool party at Dr. Demento’s is a prime example (Jack Black as Wolfman Jack is a scream). If you’ve seen other biopics of musicians, then you’ve got to see this! Rainn Wilson is great, looking just like the iconic DJ, and Huss is a riot as Yankovic’s disapproving father. The absurd, broad, ridiculous humor is brought to you by the good people at Funny or Die, which has brought us many hilarious internet videos. Check this movie out!!

**Now streaming on the Roku Channel

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

In a delicious and deliberate parody of all those self-congratulating and pretentious bio-pic’s of musicians like Ray, Rocketman, Bohemian Rhapsody, Walk the Line, etc. this rags-to-riches redemption story follows the same beats as every musician’s life you’ve ever heard, but in a sarcastic, hilarious tongue-in-cheek way.

Character actor and long-time second fiddle John C. Reilly gets to star and shine center stage as Dewey Cox, a young & gifted musician who, as a child, accidentally cuts his brother in half with a machete. Yeah, you can see where this movie is going fast! Another funny treat, Dewey never physically ages from 12 to 45. In this fast-paced 96-minute movie, we recap his tumultuous life from being a youngster at his school’s talent show to getting his break later on at a seedy nightclub. He marries his high-school sweetheart, Edith (Kristen Wiig) who is a baby-making machine, but succumbs to temptations of the flesh while on the road with his band, and hooks up with Darlene Madison (Jenna Fischer), his co-singer.

Through the years, Dewey goes through the usual drug-fueled dry spells, divorced marriage, and changes in his music (look for parodies of Johnny Cash, Michael Jackson, Roy Orbison, Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, and more). There’s even a hilarious scene with Dewey visiting India with the Beatles; Paul (Jack Black), John (Paul Rudd), Ringo (Jason Schwartzmann), and George (Justin Long) where they trip on LSD, ending up in a Yellow Submarine cartoon! After Dewey goes through rehab (twice!), thanks to L’Chaim (Harold Ramis), his Hasidic Jew record executive, he bounces back with a short-lived TV show, then tries to make a bizarre record, like Brian Wilson’s Smile.

In Dewey’s life, there are constants: his drummer Sam McPherson (Tim Meadows), who always accidentally turns Dewey on to the drug-of-the-month, Dewey’s angry father (Raymond J. Barry) who never misses an opportunity to tell his son he’s a failure, and his music that evolves as he evolves. Reilly is a helluva singer IRL and the songs he sings, whether stylized, based on real songs, or comedic parodies, are all excellent. This movie is one LOL moment after another, thanks to the crazy screenwriters involved, Judd Apatow (40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up) and director Jake Kasdan (Bad Teacher, Sex Tape).

Kasdan knows his way around a comedy movie and how to milk a joke better than most, so nearly every single scene is gold. The script is just plain absurd and the actors lean into it like it was Lawrence of Arabia; everyone accepts, at one point, that an obvious 35-year-old Dewey is 12-years-old. The entire movie is filled with scene after scene of funny little tidbits, outrageous moments, and quick side gags that only add to the movie as a whole. Reilly owns this movie and it proves he can carry a film from start to finish; odd though he’s never done another solo project since. 

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