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Weird: The Al Yankovic Story Review | An Off-Key Parody in Need of Autotune

PFF: This glorified SNL bit suffers from the same issues as many SNL sketches: It’s too darn long.

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When I was in eighth or ninth grade, I remember doing a cover of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Yoda,” a parody of The Kinks’ “Lola,” at some Christmas event. I was thumping along on my Höfner violin bass to the song and getting a chuckle out of some of the changed lyrics. This was my indoctrination into the world of “Weird Al” Yankovic, an artist whom I have not bothered to listen to since. However, even I’ll admit that a biopic about him sounded intriguing, paired with the overwhelmingly-positive reviews out of TIFF, but the Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is a mess and I’m really left scratching my head vis-á-vis the positive reactions. Outside of maybe one or two chuckles, Weird falls flat and is a parody that wasn’t worth making. Sure, the concept is meta, but as clever as the idea is to have the master of music parodies do a parody of the music biopic genre, it’s much like an SNL sketch that got the 7-8 minute slot when it really deserved a 3-4 minute slot, at best. 

As noted, Weird tells the story of “Weird Al” (Daniel Radcliffe) as he journeys through the music industry. It’s a satire of the genre, so much of the story is overblown or completely fictionalized, but the general genre tropes are in place Al’s parents are both unsupportive of his musical endeavors. His father (played by Toby Huss) tells him that he should join his work at the factory and give up on music while his mother (played by Julianne Nicholson) tells him to “not do what he loves,” or something to that effect. 

A still from Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. Photo courtesy of The Roku Channel.

But Al is actually talented (believe it or not!), and after sneaking out to go to a polka party — perhaps the dorkiest thing you could be peer-pressured into — he gets his first chance to show off his accordion skills without having to fear his father overhearing. He gets caught, and years later, with the help of his college dormmates, he records his first single, “My Bologna” in a bathroom and becomes an overnight success. From there, he meets Dr. Demento (played by Rainn Wilson) who is this geek’s carney, or Colonel Tom Parker. Along the way, he rises to success and shares an interesting connection with Madonna (played by Evan Rachel Wood). 

“Life is like a parody of your favorite song. Just when you think you know all the words, you don’t know anything,” warns the narrator of the film (I have to imagine it’s Radcliffe but you never know). That opening line tries to set the stage for what’s the come. As you can likely imagine, much of the story beats are greatly exaggerated. And I’m all for a clever satire, but maybe telling a young Al not to do what he loves is a bit too on the nose. For goodness sake, the film opens with Al being rushed into a hospital in what appears to be a near-death experience.

And the big difference between writing parody songs and a parody of a whole film genre is that with a song, you have the entire template in place. There’s a chord progression, lyrics and musical composition all in place by the time the real “Weird Al” ever has the idea to parody it. He could very well just write new words that fit the rhyme scheme and then sing it over the original track sans vocals should he so choose. With a film, sure, there are some beats and clichés found in the music biopic genre, but it’s not quite as simple as filming new scenes over those found in the likes of Bohemian Rhapsody, Walk the Line, etc. There has to be more thought in how to adapt those into a film aside from simply doing the complete juxtaposition of what the tropes have set up in an effort for zany humor because it’s not that the humor is too smart for audiences; it’s that the humor is reliant on the viewer having seen the countless music biopics in recent years and being able to recognize what they’re riffing on. Even then, is it really all that funny to simply do the juxtaposition of what the viewer expects in a certain scene you’ve seen before?

A still from Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. Photo courtesy of The Roku Channel.

Also, unlike other parody films such as Superhero Movie or the countless entries in the Scary Movie franchise, Weird is boxed into a corner that is so tight and there’s simply very little wiggle room. Again, you can make fun of tropes or a generic plotline, but you’re very limited when talking about musical biopics. Even if you want to expand it and say Weird parodies biopics as a whole, there’s only so much you can do because they’re already so cookie-cutter and generic whereas in the Scary Movie films, they have a whole genre of films full of various franchises and themes to pull from. You could likely count dozens of different movies riffed on in each Scary Movie, and that’s because horror is a much vaster genre than the biopic.

The writing also exposes the limitations of the real “Weird Al,” who teamed with director Eric Appel to scribe the film. I’m sure that in off-the-record discussions, the idea of subverting the genre norms such as Al rejecting Led Zeppelin as his opening act and Al becoming an overnight sensation just seconds after his roommate tells him that it’s impossible to do so are funny. In a feature film, however, it just comes off as inside jokes between friends that overestimate how funny they are to the outside world. Sure, I chuckled here and there — mostly to the joke making John Deacon of Queen seem irrelevant — but I know that if I said “reach for the pylon,” my one friend who was there for the joke would be the only one who would burst out in laughter whereas the rest of you would simply look on in confusion. 

On top of what’s presented in the film, the film simply doesn’t look that good. I’m not trying to crap on Roku’s parade, but many of the costumes — especially the record deal execs (which look like Kinks cosplay — look fake. The film also has a weird gloss a la Hallmark movies and the only thing separating it from the likes of a Redbox Original Film are the cameos. And let me tell you, there are a lot of cameos. It doesn’t quite produce the dopamine rush that the MCU’s cameos do, but I guarantee that if your dad grew up in the 1970s, they’d have a field day sifting through the landmine that is the house party scene (one of the few times the film embraces its quirkiness for the better).

But even as a feature film, it plays like a 45-minute episode of TV. In all honesty, I can’t say I’ve ever used the Roku channel, so I have no idea if it has ads, but the film abruptly cuts to black on three or four occasions much like any episode of TV would on Netflix since there aren’t ads on the streamer (yet). Perhaps those are there to make room for the ads, but as a feature film, it plays strangely and definitely is enough to take you out of the film.

I don’t want to crap on the production too much because the budget is rumored to be $8 million. Even still, if that is the case — and I mean this in the kindest way possible — it shows. I can’t imagine the cameos were cheap, factor in getting a lead actor like Radcliffe, I am left wondering how much was left for the production itself. Again, the film itself looks too glossy and the film feels quite limited in terms of its locations and scope. It’s sort of like how Judy felt small-scale but that film was led by a stronger performance and more powerful concert scenes.

Radcliffe is pretty good in his role, and I don’t want to disregard it. He’s the only actor that is bearable for the entirety of their screen time. I’m not a big enough fan of “Weird Al” to be able to tell you if Radcliffe really nailed him down to his dialect and mannerisms, nor do I care, but aside from some really iffy autotune in some of the music performances, he’s rather good in the lead role and brings some heart to it. I think I still prefer him as the ridiculously hammy villain a la his role in The Lost City, but this will suffice.

Simply put, Weird is essentially a near-two-hour SNL sketch. What’s SNL’s biggest issue in recent years? Their tendency to delegate a clever sketch to a timeslot that is far too long to keep the bit up. Weird runs out of mileage before it can ever really get in tune.


Weird: The Al Yankovic Story had its world premiere at TIFF on September 8 and will premiere on the Roku Channel on November 4. 

FILM RATING

Andrew is an entertainment journalist and film "critic" who has written for the likes of Above the Line, Below the Line, Collider, Film Focus Online, /Film and The Hollywood Handle among others. Leader of the Kaitlyn Dever Fanclub.

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Comic Book Movies

X-Men ’97 Review | Nostalgic, Epic & Marvelous!

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X-Men '97 (Disney)

Get ready for action-packed adventure, many surprise cameos and a storyline that takes

Plot

A band of mutants use their uncanny gifts to protect a world that hates and fears them; they’re challenged like never before, forced to face a dangerous and unexpected new future.

X-Men ’97 (Disney)

Review

X-Men ’97 is a revival of the classic 1990s animated television series. The storyline picks up directly after the events of the original series, maintaining continuity and preserving the beloved elements that made the original a hit show back in the day. Many of the original voice cast members have returned, including Cal Dodd as Wolverine, Lenore Zann as Rogue, George Buza as Beast, Alison Sealy-Smith as Storm and Adrian Hough as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler, which adds a layer of originality and contributes to the overall nostalgia of the television show​. Here I’m feeling like a little kid again, watching the show on a Saturday morning. I was 7 years old when it was on television in the early mornings, and it still brings back fond memories.

There were a number of new stars who joined the show such as Ray Chase who replaced Norm Spencer as Cyclops, Jennifer Hale who replaced Catherine Disher as Jean Grey, Holly Chou who replaced Alyson Court as Jubilee, A.J. LoCascio as Gambit, Matthew Waterson as Magneto, J.P. Karliak as Morph, Isaac Robinson-Smith as Bishop, Ross Marquand as Professor Charles Xavier and Gui Agustini as Roberto da Costa/Sunspot.

X-Men ’97 (Disney)

The series starts off in a world where the X-Men grapple with the loss of Professor Charles Xavier. Amidst all the chaos and uncertainty, Magneto rises to the occasion and becomes the new leader of the X-Men. This provides additional drama and the team dynamics is frequently tested with the new leadership. While dealing with the new leadership dynamics the X-Men finds themselves still dealing with people who would stop at nothing to end all mutants. The storyline doesn’t hold back on the action sequences and themes such as grief, loss and acceptance are touched on throughout the series.

The trailer of the show doesn’t spoil anything for the viewer, and I highly encourage you to watch every intro and try to spot any new changes. The show provides many cameos and easter eggs, keeping my hopes alive of a potential crossover.

The story ends with a twist, leaving you hungry for the next season, and as any Marvel movie or television show would have it, a mid-credits scene to whet your appetite for what’s to come. If you are new to X-Men you can still jump in and watch the television series, but I highly recommend watching the original series to get you up to date with most of the lore and history of the X-Men.

X-Men ’97 keeps the legacy of our favorite mutants alive with a well-written story that is filled with emotion, surprises and promises of more adventures.

Thank you Beau DeMayo for an eXcellent story! I rate this show a 5 out of 5!

Will we skip the intro song? No! I don’t think we will. Make sure to catch the show on Disney Plus!

https://youtu.be/mp1Pax-QHlA?si=-fFlVYBRIPnLQyVO
X-Men ’97 Final Trailer (Marvel Entertainment)

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‘The Present’ Review | A Heartfelt Family Adventure with a Magical Twist

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The Present
A still from 'The Present' (The Movie Partnership)

In the heartwarming film ‘The Present,’ a young boy stumbles upon a mysterious grandfather clock with the extraordinary ability to transport him through time. Driven by the hope of reuniting his parents, he embarks on a magical journey with his siblings to prevent their family from falling apart. As they face challenges together, they discover the enduring power of love and the true meaning of family.

Over the years, we have seen a lot of time-travel movies, but ‘The Present’ is a bit different from those movies. It’s not about saving the world and defending the universe from aliens. It’s all about keeping a family together and feeling loved again. In Christian Ditter’s cute romantic-comedy film, we see Jen (Isla Fisher) and Eric (Greg Kinnear) having a dinner with their three children: Emma (Shay Rudolph), Max (Mason Shea Joyce), and Taylor (Easton Rocket Sweda). However, things go downhill when the parents announce that they are separating. The next day, an old clock that used to be in Eric’s father’s house arrives at their house and they decide to keep it in their basement. Something is written on the clock, and it reads, “This clock can help you now and then, but only you can change events.” Soon, Taylor finds out that the clock can be used to time travel and alter events. As a result, he stitches a plan, along with his siblings, to bring their parents together.

Shay Rudolph and Easton Rocket Sweda in ‘The Present’ (The Movie Partnership’

The enchanted grandfather clock is a delightful narrative device that immediately draws the audience into a world where the impossible becomes possible. Who wouldn’t want to turn the clock back and alter certain events? The clock, intricately designed and exuding an air of mystical antiquity, serves as both, a literal and metaphorical centerpiece for the story. However, the movie is not just about the clock or what it does, it is about the extreme lengths children can go to restore their family. The themes of love, forgiveness, and the passage of time are woven throughout the film, offering moments of reflection and emotional resonance. The makers have subtly shown how challenging it can be to mend things, emphasizing the importance of understanding and empathy within familial relationships. Certain moments in the film would surely encourage you to let your family know how much they are valued.

Writers have done a great job in stitching a story that’s not complex. Everything that takes place in front of our eyes is neither flashy nor over the top, which makes the movie even more relatable. However, certain elements could have been infused to make the script even better. We could have seen a bit more emotional turmoil between the central pair to have a better idea about their state. On the other hand, the relationship between Jen and the kids should have been explored a little more. Apart from that, there are pacing issues in certain scenes, which could have been mended with tighter editing. Despite these shortcomings, ‘The Present’ is a charming film that offers a warm and engaging experience.

Isla Fisher and Greg Kinnear in ‘The Present’ (The Movie Partnership)

Acting-wise, Isla Fisher and Greg Kinner are splendid in their respective roles. Both actors are fully committed to their roles and don’t miss a beat. Fisher has evolved as an actor and it would be a travesty if we don’t see her healing a big blockbuster soon. The young cast delivers commendable performances, particularly Mason Shea Joyce, whose wide-eyed innocence and determination drive the film forward. Meanwhile, Shay Rudolph is as wonderful as Emma. The chemistry between the siblings feels genuine, their camaraderie reflecting a realistic portrayal of sibling dynamics.

Overall, ‘The Present’ succeeds in delivering a touching, family-friendly adventure. Its enchanting premise, mixed with heartfelt performances, makes it a worthwhile watch, especially for families seeking a film with positive messages.

‘The Present’ hit UK cinemas on May 24.

 

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Netflix

Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1 Review: Have They Lost Their Spark?

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Sam Phillips as Lord Debling, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington and Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton

Dearest gentle reader, Lady Whistledown is back for another Bridgerton season, and this time for her own love story (the ton doesn’t need to know). Classy as ever, Bridgerton Season 3 focuses primarily on Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton’s characters Penelope Featherington and Colin Bridgerton as they take their friendship to another level.

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington and Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington and Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton

What is Bridgerton Season 3 About?

After focusing on Daphne and Anthony Bridgerton in the first and second seasons, the story is now following Colin Bridgerton’s story with the girl next door. Penelope was many things for Colin but never a love interest. She was his sister’s best friend, a girl next door, a friend, and someone who had a crush on him. It’s no secret for the viewers that Penelope had a huge crush on Colin for years, but our girl finally feels ready to move on and get her life together. She is now in search of a husband after getting her heart broken in the last season.

What Stole the Show?

Apart from Nicola Coughlan getting the most deserving highlight, Netflix did their fan service and gave more screen time to now-extremely popular Benedict Bridgerton. Benedict Bridgerton has always been one of the fan favorite characters but after this season he has certainly got a huge following. Luke Thompson’s charms deserve to be studied in a university. He seems to be people’s new crush and I don’t blame them! The beautifully written dialogues are as usual top notch.

Bridgerton is famous for many reasons, including its orchestral remix of popular songs. This season Pitbull’s ‘Give Me Everything’ is in the limelight as one doesn’t expect such an iconic party song to sound so classy. Huge kudos to the makeup and costume department for carrying the show with its theme gracefully. They certainly grasped the attention and enhanced the characters of the show.

Benedict Bridgerton and Lady Tilley Arnold

Benedict Bridgerton and Lady Tilley Arnold

What’s Bothering Us in The Show?

The scripting of the show seems rushed. It lacks the spice, passion, and the slow burn romance that defines a Bridgerton story. Colin’s character has been poorly developed this time. After being sidelined for the last two seasons this one was supposed to make him the knight in shining armor, but he rather lacks the character. He tries to help Penelope only because he feels guilty for insulting and hurting her. Later on, he ruins her chance with a great suitor only because he feels jealous for not having her. He acts like a child who wants his toy back as soon as some other child starts playing with it. He misses Penelope’s attention after seeing her happy with someone else who wants to marry her. Some may call it ‘true love’ but I believe it’s too immature and childish thing to do for a Bridgerton character. Nothing against Luke Newton but his character development is not helping the show.

Apart from lacking the slow-build and passionate love story, the show seems to have forgotten about Daphne and Simon Basset (played by Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page) completely. Anthony and Kate Bridgerton (played by Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley) appear in one episode and are not even mentioned in the rest.

Nicola Coughlan – The Show’s Star

Nicola Coughlan is shining brighter than any star in the sky. Both Nicola and Penelope are role models for body positivity. Young girls and women across the globe highly relate to Penelope and seeing her accepting herself, being comfortable in her own skin, and getting a complete makeover to feel more like herself is bound to create a positive wave among the fans. Unlike the last two Seasons, the Third Season is also focusing on other characters of the show as well, as it creates branches and stories for potential upcoming seasons. Yet, no one and nothing shines in front of Nicola Coughlan as she wears her crown with grace.

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington

Is It Better Than Last Two Seasons?

Each Bridgerton story has its unique charm that keeps our eyes glued to the screens. Some love Season 1, others like Season 2, and the rest prefer Season 3 but is it better than the last two? Probably not. Nothing can beat Season 1! As much as the show focuses on the ‘Friends to Lovers’ storyline, it lacks the true essence of romance and no, I’m not talking about the spiciness even though they severely lack to give us butterflies. Polin’s storyline sometimes gives us butterflies but not as much as previous seasons did. The groundwork for the couple was laid since the first season yet they are not coming as strong and passionate as expected.

Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1 is currently available to stream on Netflix. Part 2 will be released on June 13.

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