Polygon has a crew on the bottom on the 2022 Toronto Worldwide Movie Pageant, reporting on the horror, comedy, drama, and motion motion pictures meant to dominate the cinematic dialog as we head into awards season. This evaluate was revealed together with the movie’s TIFF premiere.
For almost 5 a long time now, one man has outlined what parody music seems like at its finest. His topics have ranged from pop icons like Madonna and Michael Jackson to rock and hip-hop creators like Joan Jett and Coolio. He isn’t recognized by his title a lot as by his chosen title: “Bizarre Al” Yankovic.
Among the first phrases uttered in Bizarre: The Al Yankovic Story are meant as satire: “Life is sort of a parody of your favourite songs,” a nod to Forrest Gump’s iconic “field of goodies” line. That is what each single beat of Eric Appel’s characteristic movie enlargement of his Humorous or Die wanting the identical title goals for. Why wouldn’t a biopic of a parody artist’s life be a parody itself? Accordingly, Bizarre is relentless about poking enjoyable at virtually each rattling topic it touches. Co-written by Appel and Yankovic himself, the movie each embraces and skewers many of the musical biopics that got here earlier than it, together with the historical past of music itself. It’s one thing of an onslaught of humor, utilizing each scene as an excuse to ship a number of jokes — normally a lot extra. Very like Appel’s authentic faux-trailer brief, the characteristic rewrites Yankovic’s life by creating an odd amalgamation of actuality and fiction.
Bizarre begins on the fake finish of Yankovic’s life, in a hospital dying scene rapidly revealed as a fake-out and setup for a protracted historical past. Appel and Yankovic (performed within the movie by Harry Potter collection star Daniel Radcliffe) take their candy time transferring by means of the type of moments that music biopics are well-known for doing to dying: childhood trauma and fractured parental relationships, meteoric rises to fame and casually stunning collaborations, a young mentorship and a heartbreaking descent into the world of medicine, intercourse, and alcohol. One of many movie’s best strengths is the best way it expertly hyperlinks these false eventualities in with Bizarre Al’s actual historical past, persistently forcing the viewers to query what actuality actually means inside fiction.
Accuracy has develop into the definitive measure of how modern biopics are judged, however Appel and Yankovic query that idea. Some filmmakers select to sacrifice historical past in favor of a sanitized, accessible product, sometimes on the request of the artists being documented, or those that handle their picture. (Bohemian Rhapsody is a primary instance.) Different filmmakers purpose for one thing nearer to an trustworthy model of actuality, like Bertrand Bonello’s Saint Laurent, versus Jalil Lespert’s “accredited” Yves Saint Laurent. Or they embrace fantasy and metaphor to color a larger portrait of an artist, like Todd Haynes’ good I’m Not There.
Even in documentary portraits, although, packaging a life into a couple of hours produces an apparent, plain falseness. And the viewers is simply seeing the artist by means of the eyes of whoever’s creating the story. That is the place Yankovic’s parody expertise turn out to be useful. He expertly rewrites historical past to the purpose of such blatant falseness that even viewers who barely have an inkling about Yankovic’s true life story can nonetheless acknowledge how he’s tailored it for his comedian profit.
The movie strikes comfortably between its three anticipated acts: Bizarre Al’s rise as a parody artist regardless of a closeted accordion-playing childhood; his downfall as a consequence of medicine, alcohol, and Madonna’s affect; and his picture rehabilitation after the demise of his relationship and a return to his previous that brings true peace of thoughts and canonization. A lot of the movie is frankly unreal — the best bits of historical past are generally probably the most honest ones, from the best way Yankovic recorded his debut track, “My Bologna,” in a college toilet as a result of it had good acoustics to the best way Dr. Demento’s comedy-music present introduced Yankovic to nationwide consideration. Alongside the best way, the movie even recontextualizes his dwell productions, like his “Like a Surgeon” efficiency that parodies Madonna’s Fact or Dare efficiency of “Like a Virgin.”
Bizarre’s method to musical historical past morphs precise occasions, each area of interest and apparent, into moments revolving round Yankovic, in brazenly ridiculous methods. There’s Bizarre Al, carrying six platinum data round his neck, getting the total Oprah interview remedy, as if his fame was ever actually at that stage. He’s being arrested in Miami for public publicity in Jim Morrison’s place, an occasion reframed as Yankovic whipping out his accordion onstage, reasonably than his genitals. (The movie frames accordions as obscene all through the movie, together with when teenage Yankovic is caught by cops whereas enjoying one at a polka social gathering.)
Pablo Escobar’s reported curiosity in kidnapping Michael Jackson is reworked right into a subplot the place Escobar is as an alternative obsessive about Yankovic, and kidnapping his in-film girlfriend Madonna (Evan Rachel Wooden). There’s even a Boogie Nights-style yard social gathering of celebrities that locations Elton John, Pee-wee Herman, Devo, Tiny Tim, Gallagher, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dalí, Wolfman Jack, John Deacon, and Divine (amongst many others) all in the identical room without delay, floored by the facility of Bizarre Al’s parodying skills.
Its true turning level from playfully fictional to outright ahistorical comes with the framing of the track “Eat It” as an authentic track reasonably than a parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” Inside minutes of each viewers and document label listening to this “new authentic track by Al Yankovic,” Jackson’s “Beat It” hits the radio, dashing his goals of being taken severely as an authentic artist, and ensuing on the earth believing that his track was a parody all alongside.
It’s a easy story beat, paying homage to Yankovic’s minor 30 Rock cameo the place Jenna Maroney makes an attempt to write down an “unparody-able” track to foil the artist, leading to him creating a preferred “critical” track as an alternative. However the “Eat It” arc and its humor spawns a wholly new dramatic arc for the movie. Yankovic’s dedication to his persona and model is exactly what makes his display appearances all through popular culture so pleasurable, even once they’re so simple as enjoying a plain, “not bizarre” model of himself on Work in Progress. The actors in his biopic are equally dedicated to the straight-faced silliness that defines this film.
Recognizing all of the cameos (usually from well-known actors or comedians enjoying completely different celebrities) contributes to the enjoyment of the movie, however Daniel Radcliffe’s flip as Yankovic grounds the story. Perhaps “grounded” is the fallacious phrase for a movie that includes Bizarre Al assembly Queen Elizabeth II (whose dying on the day of the movie’s premiere at TIFF resulted in uproarious, barely uncomfortable, laughter on the screening) and the notion that Bizarre Al may exchange Roger Moore as James Bond. However all the things the movie does properly comes again to Radcliffe’s efficiency.
In lieu of dwell vocals or covers, the actor purposefully and clearly lip-syncs to Bizarre Al’s precise voice, simply certainly one of many comedian beats that the movie throws at Radcliffe, who nails them expertly. It isn’t an individually nice efficiency, precisely, but it surely completely captures the sincerity that has garnered many an actor an Oscar nod or nomination within the face of fully nonsensical storytelling and writing. Even the supporting performances, like Wooden’s comically villainous Madonna, Julianne Nicholson’s often chopping however principally doting function as Yankovic’s mom, Mary, and Toby Huss as Nick, Yankovic’s working-class father who simply can’t stand that accordion music, all really feel ideally calculated to suit the pre-existing Behind the Music roles they’re enjoying off of.
In a realm the place Stroll Arduous is commonly cited because the definitive work of music-biopic parody — each an skilled satire of earlier movies like Stroll the Line and Ray, and an indication of extra to come back with movies like Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman, and even Baz Luhrmann’s impressed Elvis — it could be pretty simple to dismiss Bizarre: The Al Yankovic Story as nothing notably particular. However Yankovic’s consideration to element and embrace of the absurd is exactly what makes the movie so intoxicatingly charming, even within the face of a script that generally feels prefer it’s merely a free framework for delivering a wave of gags (not all of which can land for every viewer).
It’s an prolonged work of parody artwork that’s truly humorous, and an prolonged return to comedy from somebody who’s one thing of a grasp at it. In a world the place the person hasn’t launched an album in eight years, it’s rattling refreshing to have this cinematic ode to his particular model of humor.
Bizarre: The Al Yankovic Story will stream without spending a dime on the Roku Channel starting Nov. 4.