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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.



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. 


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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Disney’s Latest Star “Wish”



Ariana DeBose as Asha in Wish (Disney)


Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Wish” is an all-new musical-comedy welcoming audiences to the magical kingdom of Rosas, where Asha, a sharp-witted idealist, makes a wish so powerful that it is answered by a cosmic force—a little ball of boundless energy called Star. Together, Asha and Star confront a most formidable foe—the ruler of Rosas, King Magnifico—to save her community and prove that when the will of one courageous human connects with the magic of the stars, wondrous things can happen.

Ariana Debose as Asha in Wish (Disney)

Movie Review (no spoilers)

The film is inspired by Disney’s centennial, which ties together a central theme across most of the Disney-related stories — of wishes and dreams coming true. One can view it as the origin story for the wishing star, albeit a funny star. Disney delivers a feel good story filled with humor and the occasional teases and links to other Disney-related works. Ariana DeBose braces the big screen as the hero, Asha who discovers a sinister secret about King Magnifico and his use of the wishes.

Ariana’s performance performance is amazing and I enjoyed listening to the songs she performed. I foresee “This Wish” topping the charts at Spotify soon.

This Wish by Ariana DeBose (Spotify)

Chris Pine plays the part of King Magnifico and delivers a good performance as the villain. We hear him sing a song alongside Ariana, At All Costs.

At All Costs by Chris Pine & Ariana DeBose (Spotify)

The story delivers the usual fun characters that Disney brings along in all stories, amazing graphics of a magical world, and an amazing song library for everyone to listen to. This movie is excellent for young and old, delivering a feel-good movie for all. Wish is yet another treasure in the world of Disney.

I’m really excited for the next 100 years of Disney magic. The movie Wish has the potential to become a sequel, or even provide potential spin-offs exploring the wishes and dreams of others in the magical Disney Universe.

My wish is for more many more years of movie magic from Disney. What is yours?

My rating is a 4 out of 5 for Disney’s Wish. Watch at a cinema near you and join in the Disney centennial celebrations!

Wish Official Trailer (Disney)

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‘The Holdovers’ Review | Paul Giamatti, Alexander Payne Reunite For This Year’s Most Beautiful and Poignant Comedy



Paul Giamatti and Dominic Sessa in 'The Holdovers' (Focus Features)

“They don’t make them like that anymore” is one sentence that we hear a lot when it comes to cinematic brilliance. Most of the times, it is used for titles that might be considered a classic. Sadly, this sentence is being used too often these days and even for those projects, that might not even qualify. However, Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers is undoubtedly one of the movies that deserves to be called an instant classic and I can wholeheartedly say: “They don’t make them like that anymore.”

The holiday season has arrived and audiences want to see movies that makes them feel that holiday spirit. Although it is very rare to see both these qualities in the movies these days, ‘The Holdovers’ has quietly gained popularity among cinephiles this holiday season, emerging as one of the year’s best films among audiences.

The movie is set in a boy’s boarding school in New England in 1970. Paul Hunham is a stern yet brilliant professor who refuses to give passing grades to rich students just because their parents are some of the school’s biggest donors. He is firm and doesn’t let these brats take advantage of him. On the other hand, we have Angus Tully, who is the son of wealthy parents attending the school who tends to ready the students for top universities. It’s Christmas time and everyone is going home, but things take a wild turn for Hunham when he is forced to babysit for children whose parents are unable to let them return home for the holidays. Eventually, Tully ends up being the only child in Hunham’s supervision. As the two begin to spend time with each other, they slowly begin to know much more about each other and understand why they are how they are.

Dominic Sessa, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Paul Giamatti in ‘The Holdovers’ (Focus Features)

There is no doubt that Paul Giamatti’s role as Paul Hunham is one of his most compelling roles. Make no mistake, Giamatti has given several amazing performances, but Hunham turns out to be a role that makes audiences realise how truly amazing he is as an actor. The way he insults people in this movie is hilariously brilliant. It seems Giamatti had a lot of fun while shooting this film and went down the memory lane to prepare for the role. Giamatti is just breath-taking in this role. On the other hand, Dominic Sessa is truly a revelation here and delivers a performance that touches everyone’s heart. In the beginning, you might not like his character but as the story moves forward, you understand why he is like this and Sessa completely nails it.

Da’Vine Joy Randolph delivers a deeply heartbreaking performance as a grieving mother in the film. Randolph gives a detailed performance showing both deep sadness and moments of happiness. It’s a portrayal of grief that feels very genuine and touching.

Even though there are moments that makes the film touching, ‘The Holdovers’ is hardly a serious drama. It’s a very welcoming holiday movie that doesn’t shy away from being funny and absurd. These characters have faced sadness, loss, and pain. However, the movie bravely allows us to laugh alongside them, as their humorous shortcomings transform a typical holiday stay at home into unexpected hospital visits and adventurous trips spanning multiple cities. For many people, it will be nostalgic to see this old-school sweet holiday movie that they must have seen in their youth and takes them to a time where people cared about feelings.

All in all, THE HOLDOVERS is a moving, bittersweet comedy drama that instantly becomes a Holiday classic. A story where you’d think how emotions don’t change even though life has.

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‘Nightingales In The Cocoon’ Review | A Captivating Tale Celebrating Hope and Joyous Shared Moments



Official poster of 'Nightingales in the Cocoon' (Unchained Pictures)

Nightingales in the Cocoon is a vivid and heartwarming portrait of transformation and connection in a bustling city. The short beautifully captures the essence of hope, resilience, and the power of shared experiences. In just five minutes, this story carries a profound message that transcends its simplicity. Dharavi, often characterized by its challenging environment, serves as the backdrop for the story’s beginning. It sets the stage for two children’s life-altering decision to break free from their past. This decision, in itself, is a testament to the human spirit’s resilience and the pursuit of a better life.

The symbolism of leaving behind what is perceived as “trash” is a powerful metaphor for shedding the burdens of the past. The discarded keyboard, seemingly insignificant, becomes a symbol of forgotten dreams and overlooked opportunities. As fate would have it, two young kids in Navi Mumbai stumble upon this abandoned keyboard, which becomes the catalyst for a heartwarming journey. The excitement and curiosity the keyboard sparks in them are relatable and heartening. It reminds us of the pure joy that simple discoveries can bring, especially to young minds eager for new experiences.

A still from ‘Nightingales in the Cocoon’ (MUBI)

The act of acquiring batteries to breathe new life into the neglected instrument is a moment of resourcefulness and determination. It’s a reminder that even in the face of challenges, a little effort can rekindle lost passions and unlock new possibilities. The transformation of the once-silent keys into a source of melodies that fill the air is a beautiful metaphor for the transformative power of art and creativity. The kids’ dance to these newfound tunes is a celebration of life’s simple pleasures and the joy of shared experiences.

This story serves as a reminder that shared moments of happiness can bridge the gaps between individuals and communities. In the bustling city where stark contrasts exist, the shared joy and rekindled dreams bring people together. It’s a testament to the universal language of music and the ability of the human spirit to find connections even in the most unexpected places.

Nightingales in the Cocoon beautifully captures the essence of hope, resilience, and the universal desire for connection and joy. It’s a brilliant and simple narrative that reminds us of the beauty in the everyday moments of life and the power of transformation and human connection.

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