Stranger: The Jankovic Story A shirtless Daniel Radcliffe opened up screaming at the hospital demanding a pencil and paper from Lin-Manuel Miranda. Things get a lot weirder from there. Although it may sound like the life story of the titular parody singer, the movie is actually more of a ceramic parody than anything else. Much like Walking Hard: The Dewey Cox Story Many serious movies about big music stars were parodied, amazing He does the same thing, except that he pretends to be around a real person. After watching it, I don’t think I know anything new about Jankovi? – and I certainly know a lot of things that aren’t quite right. Suitable for a man who writes absurd words on folk songs, amazing He takes a common concept – the autobiography of music – and makes it equally silly. In the same way I still can’t believe when “Amish Paradise” got stuck in my head, I couldn’t believe how much I laughed during amazing.
The film follows the typical biographical path. We start with humble beginnings, navigate the meteoric rise to stardom, and experience a tragic fall of grace before we finally reach the redeeming conclusion. The difference here is that almost everything is made out, and the filmmakers don’t care to tell you what’s real or fake.
Yankovic’s love of the accordion, for example, turned into an act of daring rebellion. His father, a strict man working in a dangerous factory that produces … something, calls musical parodies “evil” and Al’s favorite instrument “devil’s box”. Later, the older Jankovi? is arrested by cops after he sneaks outside to perform at a high school polka party. But the movie really starts – and gets totally silly – when we meet adult Weird Al, played by Radcliffe.
For starters, his meteoric rise happens literally overnight, and his success is comically huge: He’s on the cover of every magazine, called the sexiest man alive, and he breaks nearly every sales record in the industry. He becomes the biggest star in the world, and other pop stars are begging him for parodies. At one point, at a party that included everyone from Andy Warhol to P. Wee Hermann, Salvador Dali exclaimed that “The Stranger of Al is going to change the world.” I don’t want to spoil all the jokes, but to give you a sense of how weird things are, there’s LSD’s Journey Through Hell, a life-defining romance with Madonna, a reworking of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” origins, and a feud with Pablo Escobar. My favorite joke is the multiple original stories the movie comes with for songs like “My Bologna” and “Like a Surgeon”. It even ends with a surprisingly sweet (although also fake) origin for “Amish Paradise.”
What makes it work is how committed the movie is to the part. It perfectly follows the musical’s biopic format, but the degree of the absurd continues to expand to the point that it doesn’t feel all out of place when Jankovi? Radcliffe, in particular, really sells it, playing real-life goof Yankovic with a level of seriousness that’s well-suited for a musical resume. He tells in a deep, raspy voice reminiscent of classic movie clips, and somehow manages to turn iconic T-shirts, glasses, and Hawaiian shirts into a sexy ensemble. Yes, Weird Al is hot right now. There is also a lot of cameos praising his performance, so much so that I want to re-watch it to see who I missed. (I wouldn’t want to spoil many surprises.)
Now that I’ve seen the movie, I realize I probably don’t want a true story about Weird Al’s life anyway. amazing Not a success because it gives me some kind of deep insight into the tormented life of a brilliant artist. He’s a success because he’s the most extreme and outlandish musical biographer to date, someone who uses a real-life character to make those goofy and certainly not real moments any more difficult.
Stranger: The Jankovic Story It airs on the Roku channel starting November 4th. This review is based on a screening at the Toronto International Film Festival.