From Freddie Mercury to James Brown to Madonna herself, many of the artists that “Weird” Al Yankovic has parodied have either received the biopic treatment, or have one in the works. So it’s only fitting that the musical madman himself is finally getting his own origin story in Weird, a movie about Al’s rise to mainstream ubiquity—one that turns out to be a parody of biopics themselves. Yankovic co-wrote the screenplay with director Eric Appel, and Daniel Radcliffe dons a tight-curled wig to star as the accordion-playing oddball.
The meta, first official trailer showcases all the touchstones of just about every rock-and-roll life story that has come before: How the musician came up with his most famous song! How his parents didn’t believe in him! The drugs! The sex! Making it all the more “weird” is that most of this never happened to Yankovic.
Weird features a terrific ensemble cast, including: Quinta Brunson as Oprah Winfrey; Julianne Nicholson as Yankovic’s mother; Rainn Wilson as novelty-record radio DJ Dr. Demento (who, like in the movie, really did give Yankovic his first airplay); and Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna, who, unlike in the movie really didn’t seduce Al and drag him to the dark side. (Al himself shows up briefly in the trailer as a record executive.)
There is a long, winding path towards Weird being a real movie. It began in 2010 with a fake trailer that Appel created by Funny or Die, with Aaron Paul as Yankovic (a good choice, but not as pitch perfect as Radcliffe) and Olivia Wilde as Madonna. That trailer was more of an explicit parody of rise-and-fall dramatic music biopics, while the new promo for the new full-length movie shows a slick, slyer take. (Appel has largely worked in TV, directing episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Silicon Valley, and Happy Endings, so he clearly knows how to make fast-paced humor work on the screen. Weird is his feature directorial debut.)
In the new Weird trailer, we see such (fake) signposts as Radcliffe, in Yankovic’s signature mustache and curly mane, being struck by inspiration for his first parody when the radio plays the Knack’s “My Sharona” while he is making lunch with some bologna. We get a time-lapse of the movie’s whole rise and fall and rise arc (Madonna turns him against his band and onto booze, but after hitting rock bottom, Dr. Demento reminds him who he is), but, that’s hardly a spoiler as all biopics follow the same path.
The most thrilling part of the trailer is Radcliffe, as the 33-year-old actor continues to embrace odd roles that stretch him far outside of the blockbuster filmmaking where he first cut his teeth as a youngstert. A recent villainous turn in the 2022 hit The Lost City showcased his comedic chops, but here he gets the meatiness of a lead role to play with.
Weird premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival, and gets its official release through The Roku Channel on November 4.