THE MOVIE "Weird: The Al Yankovic Story"
WHERE Streaming on The Roku Channel
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Pretend it's 1985 and you've just sat down with your brand-new CD of "Dare to Be Stupid," the third album from the mustachioed parody genius "Weird Al" Yankovic.
After rocking out and cracking up to the Madonna parody "Like a Surgeon" or the Kinks riff "Yoda," you call up your buddies on the landline and everyone agrees: There's gotta be a "Weird Al" movie, stat.
"What if it were a biopic," you say, "but one where all the cool kids have illicit polka parties, Al and Madonna fall in love, and, oh yeah, there's an action scene involving Pablo Escobar and his men."
In other words, all stuff that definitely really happened.
After a good long laugh, you and the pals agree that Hollywood would never go for this and everyone makes plans for a trip to the mall, or another mid-'80s activity of choice.
But suddenly, somehow, decades later when Al is still beloved but no longer exactly at the top of the nexus of popular music and comedy, this exact movie has arrived.
It's "Weird: The Al Yankovic Story," starring none other than Daniel Radcliffe as the musical madman opposite Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna. It's directed by Eric Appel from a screenplay he co-wrote with Yankovic, and it's playing now on The Roku Channel.
MY SAY This is less of a movie in the traditional sense than a feature-length bit, a goof, a riff. You either meet it on its wavelength, or you don't.
There are many of us, who even all these years later, can't help but smile at the first blast of those accordion chords, the driving drum beat and the exhortation that "my little hungry one, hungry one" should "open up a package of 'My Bologna!'"
So it's hard to resist being swept away by it all when the everyday lunch meat inspires a bolt of life-changing creative inspiration for our young hero, and the movie infuses the moment with the same degree of drama as, say, Elton John working out "Your Song" in "Rocket Man."
The picture gets progressively zanier, veering into "Naked Gun" territory as the action and the characters grow further apart from their real selves. Radcliffe commits to the shtick without hesitation; it's a screwball performance with perfect comic timing and the dexterity to recognize how to go big and broad without losing control.
To be clear: There's no effort made to bring new fans into the Yankovic tent. If you don't know the difference between "Bad Hair Day" and "Straight Outta Lynwood," don't bother. If the thought of Conan O'Brien making a cameo as Andy Warhol does nothing for you, there's no reason to hit play.
But if you were going to design the perfect "Weird Al" "biopic," this is it. It plays like a long-gestating work of fan fiction, as if Yankovic and Appel dusted off a script dreamed up by a bunch of die-hards in the '80s.
Those of who have been "riding the bus" with Al since we first heard the sweet sounds of that accordion couldn't ask for anything more.
BOTTOM LINE The essence of "Weird Al" has been distilled into one goofy movie.