The Roku Channel has finally released Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, its biopic of “Weird Al” Yankovic that loosely chronicles the parody musician’s life while satirizing the tropes and conventions of traditional music biopics. Daniel Radcliffe stars as Weird Al alongside Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna and Rainn Wilson as Dr. Demento in a film directed by Eric Appel from a screenplay he co-wrote with Yankovic himself. Thanks to its acute self-awareness and appropriately goofy style, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story has been widely praised by critics and fans alike. When it premiered at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, it won the coveted People’s Choice Award for Midnight Madness.
It’s one of Weird Al’s only forays into the art of cinema, but he’s referenced popular movies in his songs from the very beginning. From his “Lola” parody on Yoda to his “MacArthur Park” parody on Jurassic Park, Weird Al’s discography is full of hilarious songs about movies.
After The Empire Strikes Back introduced Yoda to the world, Weird Al wrote a song about him to the tune of the Kinks’ controversial 1970 classic, “Lola.” Instead of describing a beautiful woman in a London nightclub, “Yoda” describes a wise old Jedi master in a swamp of Dagobah.
The song recaps Luke Skywalker’s Jedi training in the second act of Empire. “Lola” opens with “I met her in a club in old Soho”, while “Yoda” opens with “I met him in a swamp in Dagobah”.
Theme 6/7 from Rocky XIII (The Rye or the Kaiser)
“Theme from Rocky XIII,” better known as “The Rye or the Kaiser,” is a speculative theme for the 13th Rocky movie (which, thanks to the Creed franchise, is just a few sequels away). This song combines Weird Al’s two greatest loves besides polka: movie parody and food-based lyrics. Musically, it’s a parody of “Eye of the Tiger”, the Survivor theme from Rocky III. The lyrics predict that an aging and weakened Rocky Balboa will retire from boxing and buy out his local grocery store. Instead of fighting Clubber Lang to the sound of “It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight / Rise to our rival’s challenge”, Rocky serves sandwiches to the sound of “Try the rye or the kaiser, they are our specials tonight / If you want you can have an aperitif.
Interestingly, recorded in 1984, this prediction from the Rocky franchise isn’t too far off from where the character actually ended up. In the first Creed movie, a retired Rocky runs an Italian restaurant dedicated to the memory of his late wife Adrian. It’s not a grocery store, but it’s close.
In the wake of Forrest Gump’s runaway box office success, Weird Al recounted the storyline that turned the film’s history upside down in a parody of the US Presidents alt rock hit “Lump.” “Lump” opens in a swamp – “Lump sat alone in a swampy swamp / Totally emotionless except for his heart” – while “Gump”, like the film it parodies, opens with a bench: “Gump sat alone on a bench in the park / ‘My name is Forrest,’ he remarked casually.
A character study of Forrest himself, the parody lyrics of “Gump” focus on the film’s exaggerated portrayal of his intellect; “She’s fat, she’s fat, she’s in my head / She’s fat, she’s fat, she’s fat, she might be dead” becomes “He’s Gump, he’s Gump, he ain’t too much brilliant / He’s Gump, he’s Gump, he’s Gump, but he’s okay! »
4/7 Jurassic Park
When Steven Spielberg’s dinosaur-infested blockbuster Jurassic Park topped the box office, Weird Al ridiculed the film in a musical tribute to Richard Harris’ recording of Jimmy Webb’s “MacArthur Park.” Some contemporary reviewers felt that the song failed to comment on the film by simply listing its main plot points, but the juxtaposition of style and subject matter works beautifully.
Weird Al uses the dark melody of Harris’ classic to satirize the absurdity of Jurassic Park’s dinosaur-clone theme park plot; “MacArthur’s Park melts in the dark / All the soft, green frosting flowing” becomes “Jurassic Park is scary in the dark / All the dinosaurs go wild”.
3/7 Spy hard
Weird Al’s theme for the James Bond parody Spy Hard is, fittingly, a parody of James Bond themes. Accompanied by a perfect pastiche of Maurice Binder’s iconic Bond film title design, Weird Al’s Spy Hard theme evokes the moody, solemn musical style that Shirley Bassey pioneered for the Bond franchise with her unforgettable Goldfinger theme.
There’s a fun piece about the urban legend that Tom Jones held a note too long while recording the Thunderball theme and passed out. In the Spy Hard theme, Yankovic holds a note so long that his head explodes.
2/7 Ode to a superhero
Following the theatrical release of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, Yankovic recapped the events of the groundbreaking superhero blockbuster in a parody of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” titled “Ode to a Superhero.” Joel’s catchy chorus says “Sing us a song, you’re the piano player”, while Yankovic’s equally catchy chorus says “Hold us a web, you’re the Spider-Man!” »
Yankovic’s Spidey-themed lyrics point out some of the film’s shortcomings, such as its overuse of the phrase “With great power comes great responsibility” and the fact that Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin is much scarier without ” that stupid mask from Power Rangers”.
1/7 The saga begins
Yankovic’s second Star Wars-themed song, “The Saga Begins,” recaps the events of The Phantom Menace in the style of Don McLean’s “American Pie.” “American Pie” opens with “A long, long time ago, I still remember…”, while “The Saga Begins” opens with “A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. …” Weird Al’s Phantom parody Menace focuses on one of the film’s biggest controversies: its portrayal of the boy who would become the fearsome Sith Lord Darth Vader as a lovable young podracer who thinks spinning is a good trick.
Where McLean sings, “Bye-bye, Miss American Pie,” Yankovic sings, “My, my, this guy here Anakin!” Where McLean sings, “Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry,” Yankovic sings, “Maybe Vader a day later – now he’s just small fry.” »