Archive for the Biography Category


Posted in Biography, Comedy, Drama on May 11, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Capitalism is hot. Earn the highest profit by producing the best good or service at the most competitive price. 2023 has already seen its fair share of movies that tackle the subject—First Tetris, then Air, and now Blackberry. However, not all tales of entrepreneurial determination have the same approach. While the first two were uplifting sagas of can-do spirit, the latest is decidedly less inspirational. The accelerated rise & disastrous fall of the first smartphone is the subject of this exhilarating but sad account.

I take biopics — which blend fact and fiction — with a grain of salt. The screenplay is adapted from Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff’s book Losing the Signal. According to this, BlackBerry started with two nerds. Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) has an idea and starts a company with his buddy and fellow geek Douglas Fregin. Actor Matt Johnson (who stars as Douglas) also directs from a script co-written with longtime collaborator Matthew Miller. The messy hair, headband-wearing Douglas manages the engineers but is just as focused on scheduling weekly movie nights for the staff. John Carpenter’s They Live is a favorite.

Mike and Douglas are schooled in technology but not in the ways of business. Their Waterloo, Ontario-based firm, Research In Motion (RIM), has a product called the PocketLink, “a pager, a cell phone, and an e-mail machine all in one.” It’s going nowhere. They’re a couple of minnows in a world for sharks. They need an aggressive personality. Enter corporate fast talker Jim Balsillie. Star Glenn Howerton (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) is almost unrecognizable as the balding businessman. Antagonistic and overbearing, the actor gives the performance of his career thus far. He’s incredible and believable as the tycoon who leads their enterprise — for better and for worse — into a 50% market share and $20 billion in annual sales.

BlackBerry is a narrative of contrasting ideologies and bruised egos. Despite being extremely intelligent, Mike and Douglas were innocent and naive children in a world of adults. This is a Canadian saga told by Canadian filmmakers. Yet the film perfectly captures the lackadaisical style that characterizes Silicon Valley tech companies like Google and Facebook. Jim is a different fit altogether. The volatile mix would prove both advantageous and detrimental to the corporation’s success. Also, Steve Jobs’ launch of the iPhone in 2007 didn’t help. Mike initially insisted users would prefer their tactile, clicking keyboard. Of course, Jobs’ revolutionary keyboardless design would ultimately become the industry standard. Although the movie simplifies things considerably by making it seem like Jobs’ announcement was an immediate death knell. In reality, Blackberry would continue gaining users until 2013 before gradually losing to Apple in the cell phone arena.

Competition is ideal for encouraging the finest products at the lowest price people are willing to pay. The downside is that one company’s triumph often means another’s defeat. This is one of those “true” tales of capitalism that inspired me to delve deeper when it was over. How they came up with the name of their device is never even explained. (Someone thought the tiny black keyboard resembled the surface of the fruit). While certain developments feel fictionalized, it blends a heady amount of facts to be highly informative. The chronicle brilliantly melds comedy with truth into a thoroughly entertaining (and depressing) mix of history and fun. Blackberry is a fascinating account of “that thing you owned before you got an iPhone.”

BlackBerry is a limited release in theaters on May 12.


Big George Foreman

Posted in Biography, Drama, Sports with tags on May 1, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

One of the most extraordinary developments in boxing history is when George Foreman, age 45, became the oldest heavyweight champion when he defeated 26-year-old Michael Moorer in the 10th round in Las Vegas on November 5, 1994. That event would have been enough to warrant a biopic…but there’s so much more.

What makes this a compelling sports drama is the man at the heart of this true tale. Living in the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas, Foreman came from absolute poverty. Underestimated, he had to control his anger throughout a difficult childhood. After dropping out of high school, he joined the Jobs Corps work program, which assisted young adults in need. Actor Khris Davis (Judas and the Black Messiah) portrays the titular subject as an adult through the various stages of his career. Davis turns in a solid performance. Foreman would meet Doc Broadus (Forest Whitaker) in the Jobs Corps. There he discovered and encouraged Foreman’s talent for boxing. Broadus would become both trainer and mentor. Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) is particularly engaging as the legendary trainer. Together the actors effectively evoke their close bond.

The ups and downs of George Foreman’s life are tailor-made for a biopic. You barely have to tinker with the details because the facts are inherently interesting. He achieved the gold medal in the heavyweight division at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. From there, he won his first 37 professional matches, 34 by knockout, then famously faced Joe Frazier and defeated him by KO. The boxer was crowned heavyweight champ. However, Foreman would lose in 1974 in Zaire to then-underdog Muhammad Ali in the storied “Rumble in the Jungle.” A few years later, he retired from boxing, became an ordained minister, and founded a youth center. I could go on. The accomplishments grow more incredible.

The saga moves from one episode to another with little drama or conflict. Director George Tillman, Jr. (The Hate U Give) reverently presents the various highlights of Foreman’s life in a celebratory manner. (The star athlete is an executive producer.) The movie is traditional and episodic. Yet his story is so uplifting and sweet (like the man himself) that it’s hard to dislike. His smiling demeanor has sold over 100 million units of the George Foreman Grill since 1994. There’s a reason for that. I recommend this inspiring portrait to fans of the champion.



Posted in Biography, Drama, History with tags on April 6, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Tetris is not your typical video game movie. Imagine if the Mortal Kombat film franchise weren’t martial arts fantasies but the true biographical story of how lawyers at Midway Games argued over contractual obligations. Now you can appreciate the perspective by which screenwriter Noah Pink (anthology TV series Genius) has approached this project. Ok, so I admit harnessing the addictive joy of a puzzle distraction like Tetris into a work of fiction would have been daunting, But wouldn’t massive blocks falling from the skies in some “Chicken Little” scenario be hilarious?

Tetris (the movie) concerns the transactions required to license and patent a piece of software created in the Soviet Union. The tension of the production depends on Cold War politics during the 1980s. There are a lot of obvious examples that thrillingly utilize this period as a backdrop: The Falcon and the Snowman, Red Dawn, and Wargames are immediately obvious. Think harder, and The Living Daylights, Spies Like Us, and Miracle also come to mind. Tetris is a far less exciting addition to that collection.

The plot revolves around a lot of people talking about business. William Shakespeare knew the value of a dramatis personae. A character list would help keep track of this extended cast of various names. Our hero of the piece is Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton), a Dutch-born entrepreneur living and working in Tokyo. In 1988 he discovers Tetris at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and sets out to secure the rights to distribute the program. It was designed by Russian programmer Alexey Pajitnov (Nikita Efremov), who is prohibited by law from earning a personal profit while working for ELORG, a state-owned organization. Nevertheless, Rogers travels behind the Iron Curtain to meet with him.

Ah, but there are complications! Robert Stein (Toby Jones) is a rival executive at Andromeda Software that has already obtained the worldwide licensing rights to Tetris from Soviet corporation ELORG. Stein subsequently grants media tycoon Robert Maxwell (Roger Allam) and his son, Kevin Maxwell (Anthony Boyle), CEO of British video game company Mirrorsoft, the rights to publish Tetris in exchange for the royalties. In an apparent nod to inject at least one female into this boys club, the chronicle introduces a Russian interpreter named Sasha (Sofia Lebedeva) to assist Henk Rogers in communicating with the Soviets. This assemblage of names barely scratches the surface.

If the minutiae of legal issues surrounding the distribution and marketing of a video game sounds intriguing, then Tetris might fit together. Filmmaker Jon S. Baird is familiar with true stories. He previously directed the Laurel and Hardy biopic, Stan & Ollie. As an informative account, it’s competent. The atmosphere is injected with forced goofiness and pixilated animations to lighten the mood. This educational history lesson tries hard to be a zany comedy adventure. A lively soundtrack of 80s covers (Holding Out for a Hero, Heart of Glass) elevates the mood. However, a didactic tone ultimately takes over in this film that strangely feels like homework.

Tetris is available to watch at home exclusively on Apple TV+.



Posted in Biography, Documentary with tags on March 15, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

My Octopus Teacher, Summer of Soul, and now Navalny. On March 12, the submission officially joined fellow recent Oscar winners when it received the award for Best Documentary. The win wasn’t a huge surprise. It was slightly favored to win over the other nominees. The feature had already won the top award at the Producers Guild and the BAFTAs. The picture is a political portrait centered around Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his crusade against an authoritarian regime. Given the current affairs surrounding Ukraine, its relevance as an exposé of Russian politics makes it a particularly timely selection.

The film recounts the events related to Navalny’s poisoning and the subsequent investigation. On August 20, 2020, he got sick during a flight to Moscow. The activist was hospitalized in serious condition. He was taken to a hospital in Russia after an emergency landing and put in a coma. Two days later, under accusations he wasn’t receiving treatment with his best interest in mind, he was evacuated to the Charité hospital in Berlin, Germany. It was later confirmed he had been poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent. Navalny blamed president Vladimir Putin for his poisoning, while the Kremlin repeatedly denied involvement.

The high point is a jaw-dropping “gotcha” moment. Navalny, along with investigative journalist Christo Grozev and Maria Pevchikh, the head investigator for the Anti-Corruption Foundation, are all on the phone. They’ve identified a list of potential Kremlin agents likely responsible for his sickness. Adopting the persona of one of Putin’s accomplices, Navalny demands to know why the assassination failed. To everyone’s shock, the voice on the line attempts to provide an answer. While the rest of the documentary is adequate, nothing else comes close to this development.

Navalny ultimately got better in Germany. He flew back to Russia, where government officials greeted him at the airport and detained him for violating parole conditions. In February 2022, Navalny was charged with fraud and sentenced to a nine-year term at a maximum-security penal colony. Amnesty International has described the trials as a politically motivated sham. His fate remains uncertain. Meanwhile, this account remains a testament to his life and work.


Argentina, 1985

Posted in Biography, Crime, Drama with tags on March 8, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Do you love politics, history, and courtroom dramas? Argentina, 1985 is a perfect blending of the three.

The title is an accurate description of the time and place. The country has recovered its democracy after seven years of a military dictatorship called the National Reorganization Process. The current President has ordered the former commanders to be put on trial for their crimes of torture and abuse against the people. However, the accused want to be tried by a military court, but they fail to press charges. So the lawsuit moves to the civilian judiciary, where they can be tried. The responsibility for building the case against them falls on its only federal prosecutor, Julio Strassera (Ricardo Darín).

Argentina 1985 is a David and Goliath story The Trial of the Juntas concerns holding those accountable for the bloodiest dictatorship in the history of Argentina. This details the Argentine justice system. It would be a challenging endeavor. The military has all the advantages of a team of experienced lawyers. Julio Strassera is at a distinct disadvantage with limited resources and a group of lawyers that are young and inexperienced.

The first half is about assembling the team and the death threats they receive for trying this case. He’s assigned a deputy prosecutor named Luis Moreno Ocampo (Peter Lanzani ), a professor whose family has ties to the military. Strassera is skeptical but ultimately accepts Ocampo’s help. The second part is the judicial hearing, where we learn about the atrocities the de facto government committed while in control. The proceedings are broadcast, so the citizens are watching this too, and it’s turning the tide of public opinion.

The saga is a chronicle of a historical event where people were brought to justice, regardless of how powerful and protected. The legal developments of one country may seem narrow in scope. Still, we can take what happened in Argentina and apply those lessons to any regime that might overstep its authority. I appreciated the presentation of an atrocity of which I knew very little. It’s a compelling portrait, and it even manages to respectfully inject humor here and there despite the serious subject matter. Argentina, 1985 is nominated for Best International Feature at the upcoming Oscars this Sunday, March 12. Currently streaming on Amazon Prime.


Fire of Love

Posted in Biography, Documentary with tags on February 1, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Katia and Maurice are a married couple who share a passion. They’re volcanologists from France. As you probably can deduce, that’s a scientist that studies volcanoes. The Kraffts are geologists that focus on their incendiary formation and explosive activity. They travel the world looking for the next eruption. The beauty of this documentary is twofold. (1) It profiles two idiosyncratic individuals who together risk their lives doing something they love. (2) It highlights some of the most awe-inspiring footage of active volcanoes I have ever seen. This is where the program excels.

Images and music artfully combine in this hypnotic record. Assembling the Kraffts’ archival material, director Sara Dosa (The Last Season) presents breathtaking closeups of fiery mountains and rivers of fire. This is a loving tribute to the pair who truly cherish each other and I’d speculate volcanoes even more. Given its somewhat cheesy title, you fully expect to hear Jody Reynolds’ 1958 rockabilly hit (later covered by The Gun Club) pop up somewhere. That tune never appears, but the soundtrack does include an original score by Nicolas Godin, half of the French duo Air. The group’s songs “Clouds Up” and “Casanova 70” also appear.

“Curiosity is stronger than fear.” Filmmaker / performance artist Miranda July provides the narration. Her words prepare us for the inevitable. The work of Katia and Maurice started in the late 1960s and abruptly ended in 1991. A pyroclastic flow on Japan’s Mount Unzen wiped them out, along with 41 others. Yet it’s apparent in every frame that they were fully aware of the danger in which they willingly placed themselves. Maurice mentions a desire to row a titanium canoe down a river of lava. He wasn’t kidding. Maurice never did that, but he and Katia do things that defy death many times over. At one point, they enter an active volcano site and walk on black lava. The magma oozes from the underground depths of the earth and hardens, but it still emits fire from the cracks. Anyone witnessing their startingly closeup video of blazing eruptions as their backdrop will be amazed. “How in the world did they shoot this?” is a question I asked myself repeatedly throughout the 94-minute runtime. I could’ve watched a feature twice in length. As such, the rewatchability quotient is exceptionally high.

Fire of Love is currently streaming on Disney+ and Hulu. The movie received a limited release (191 U.S. theaters) by National Geographic Films in July 2022. It will compete for Best Documentary Feature at the 95th Academy Awards on March 12.


She Said

Posted in Biography, Drama, History with tags on December 12, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

She Said concerns Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of the New York Times. The reporters broke the story that exposed film producer Harvey Weinstein’s history of abuse and sexual misconduct against women. The scandal was a watershed moment for Hollywood and ushered in the #MeToo movement. The conversation would not end with Weinstein. Their coverage was the impetus that reexamined sexual harassment and changed the fabric of the workplace forever.

The newspaper drama is part of a grand tradition. This is the latest addition to a category that includes All the President’s Men and Spotlight, but the film could learn a thing or two from those classics. Watching people hunt down the details of a story while waiting for cell phones to ring so they can interview people and subsequently type up their findings can be rather dull. Our interest in a work of cinema demands both great performances from actors and a crackerjack screenplay.

This news event could form the basis for a gripping movie. However, She Said is a matter-of-fact recap. How two women at the New York Times got victims to go on record to share what happened to them presents the basic facts. It’s a sensible by-the-numbers retelling of a newsworthy event. However, it isn’t particularly innovative or ambitious. I didn’t learn anything new. Nevertheless, Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan are compelling. I respect their craft.

However, the approach could’ve cut a lot deeper. Directed by Maria Schrader from a script by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, the account is adapted from the 2019 book of the same name by Twohey and Kantor. She Said draws attention to a sobering truth. The first documented case occurred in 1984. Harvey Weinstein’s behavior would go unchecked (some might even say subsidized) within the industry for over three decades. Over 80 women eventually accused Weinstein of such acts. The screenplay has plenty of condemnation toward Weinstein, but It fails to hold Hollywood accountable. Rape charges would finally be filed in 2018. He’s now serving a 23-year prison sentence, but he’s also facing up to 135 years behind bars if convicted on other charges,

This journalism procedural is an efficiently made celebration of how the truth came to light, but it isn’t incisive or revelatory. On the plus side, the narrative dutifully applauds the brave women who stepped forward and told their stories. Jennifer Ehle as Miramax employee Laura Madden and Samantha Morton as Zelda Perkins, Harvey Weinstein’s personal assistant, are the highlights. Ashley Judd even appears on screen as herself. It also celebrates Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, who tirelessly worked to help make that happen. I’m encouraged that justice was served in this case and that a major Hollywood studio like Universal Pictures financed a movie about it.

She Said is currently playing in theaters, where it has earned $5.7 million since November 18. On December 6, it was made available to rent on digital platforms like Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, and Vudu.


The Fabelmans

Posted in Biography, Drama with tags on November 29, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The most basic (and oft-repeated) piece of writing advice is “Write what you know.” When directors hear that, it translates to “make a movie about your childhood.” It seems to work. Woody Allen (Radio Days), Barry Levinson (Avalon), Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Alfonso Cuarón (Roma), and Kenneth Branagh (Belfast) have all taken the advice to heart and delivered superior work. Now Steven Spielberg has entered the fold and created a beautifully realized portrait of his formative years.

The Fabelmans defies easy categorization. The chronicle of the director’s life from ages 7 to 18 features a screenplay with frequent collaborator Tony Kushner (Munich, Lincoln, West Side Story). The narrative is basically a coming-of-age tale that begins with a memorable experience. Sammy Fabelman (played by Mateo Zoryan at first, then Gabriel LaBelle) falls in love with cinema after witnessing the spectacular train crash in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1952 circus drama (and Best Picture winner) The Greatest Show on Earth. The spectacle has such a profound impact on him that he re-creates it with his Lionel electric train set. Unfortunately, his numerous attempts break the toy. So his mom gives him a movie camera and suggests he record the event so he can watch it over and over.

It’s the perceived authenticity of these reminiscences that captivate the viewer. Seeing the depth of Sammy’s creativity and the admiration he incurs for his directorial efforts is so exciting. His appreciation for motion pictures develops with the early productions he helms. Sammy’s early actors include his sisters Reggie (Julia Butters), Natalie (Keeley Karsten), and Lisa (Sophia Kopera). In one, they’re riding on a stagecoach. In another, he wraps the girls in toilet paper to be mummies for a horror picture. He directs a western while in the Boy Scouts for his photography merit badge. His abilities are growing more skillful and adept. Later, his war movie receives a warm reception from the entire troop and their families.

What commences as a chronicle documenting the seeds that inspired his passion for film morphs into a deeper portrait of his family. Life isn’t all smooth sailing. His film of a camping trip will expose a devastating truth. Spielberg has cast these personalities with an eye for charismatic people. Newcomer Gabriel LaBelle is a likable presence that suggests the director as a teen in temperament and looks. Michelle Williams as mother Mitzi has garnered significant praise for her performance. She is a kooky individual that demands to be the center center of attention. As a concert pianist, the clickety-clack of her fingernails can be heard when she plays the piano. This talent is sidelined to raise her children. Her decision to put Sammy, Reggie, and Natalie in the car and drive toward an oncoming tornado implies eccentricity verging on undiagnosed mental illness. In contrast, Paul Dano is his straight-laced father. Burt is a successful electrical engineer who hopes his son will follow in his dependable footsteps.

The social dynamic is particularly engaging around the dinner table. Here the clan eats off paper plates and uses plastic utensils on a disposable tablecloth. (Mitzi hates doing dishes). She cleans the table by grabbing the four corners of the covering in one fell swoop. His grandmother Hadassah is slightly annoyed but tolerates these shenanigans nonetheless. Jeannie Berlin stands out in that small part. Seth Rogen is his Uncle Bennie, who is really just his father’s best friend, and Judd Hirsh portrays his jaded Uncle Boris. He’s a black sheep who shows up unannounced and delivers his unvarnished view of Hollywood. Boris paints the industry as a struggle between art and family, and his rant is intense.

As with any cinematic depiction of one’s life, there’s an expected blend of fact and fiction. This is a “semi-autobiographical” story, so not everything rings true. However, it’s hard to tell what’s real and fake. Sammy grows up in an Orthodox Jewish family. He’s embarrassed by how their dark house stands out as an undecorated eyesore during the Christmas holidays. After moving from Phoenix to California with his family, he attends high school in an affluent Bay Area suburb. Tensions arise. Being Jewish and terrible at sports makes him the target of two bullies. Jocks Logan (Sam Rechner) and Chad (Oakes Fegley). The worlds of socialization and art collide when he is tapped to record the “Senior Ditch Day” at the beach as a fellow senior. His document makes an indelible impression on his peers, and one in particular. Despite his outsider status, he meets Monica Sherwood (Chloe East), who takes a liking to him. She is a Christian girl who tries to convert Sammy to accept Jesus as his savior. The methods she uses do strain credulity, but they are amusing. Oh, and at one point, a random aside details the day his mom comes home with a pet monkey.

Steven Spielberg lovingly reflects on the childhood that shaped him. The art of filmmaking and the complicated relationship between his parents intertwine in this fascinating saga. There’s no question that Spielberg is a master storyteller. The filmmaker has honed his craft since the early 1970s. Think of The Fabelmans as a gymnastics routine. The vignettes are like a series of leaps and turns. They seize the viewer’s focus like the choreography of impressment movements. Perhaps The Fabelmans most memorable and authentic moment arrives at the end with the meeting with a famous director. That scene truly sticks the landing.


The Good Nurse

Posted in Biography, Crime, Drama with tags on November 23, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The good nurse is Amy Loughren (Jessica Chastain), a single mother working in the intensive care unit of a hospital. But the reason this feature exists is because of a bad nurse. The depiction is based on the real-life tale of Charles Cullen (Eddie Redmayne), who worked at ten healthcare facilities from 1988 to 2003. A series of mysterious deaths followed him. It turns out he was a serial killer who would later plead guilty to 29 murders. However, some investigators believe that number to be in the hundreds.

This saga recounts the developments that eventually led to his capture. In retrospect, it’s bizarre that Charles and Amy started as good friends. In this dramatization, they meet in 2002 at Parkfield Memorial Hospital. Charles is an experienced RN hired to help Amy work the night shifts. She confides in him, and he gives her emotional support. Things get strange when an elderly patient named Ana Martinez (Judith Delgado) unexpectedly dies under questionable circumstances. Amy and Charles were attending to her. The health center’s administrative board contacts the state police. When detectives Danny Baldwin (Nnamdi Asomugha) and Tim Braun (Noah Emmerich) show up to investigate, hospital board risk manager Linda Garran (Kim Dickens) downplays the severity of the situation. Even Amy defends Charles …at first.

These true crime stories are often more shocking than fiction because they genuinely happened. That’s the part that shook me. It’s an unsettling portrait of a very disturbed man. Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne elevate the account with straightforward performances. Although what makes a monster like Charles Cullen tick remains an enigma. This is adapted from the 2014 book The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder by Charles Graeber. There’s a lot more to this tragedy. If you crave details after watching this, there’s a documentary: Capturing the Killer Nurse (also on Netflix). It gives more information, particularly on a U.S. healthcare system that allowed these crimes to continue for so long. It likewise highlights that Amy was instrumental in getting the evidence needed to put this murderer behind bars. The undeniable fact in both movies: Amy Loughren is a hero.


Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

Posted in Biography, Comedy, Music with tags on November 9, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

“Weird Al” Yankovic is nothing if not self-aware. “It’s odd to be like a footnote in musical history,” he opined in 2019. “Like you pick up a Kurt Cobain biography, and you’ll look in the index, and there I am.” Yankovic was referencing “Smells Like Nirvana,” which was his spoof of that band’s song “Smells Like Teen Spirit. His parodies of famous songs have sold millions, so some would argue he’s more than a footnote. “Eat It” and “White & Nerdy” were massive hits. His discography includes four gold albums and six platinum. He’s even earned five Grammy Awards. Some of the most celebrated artists of rock and roll can’t boast those statistics.

Yet given the comedy genre in which he works, “Weird Al” has always preferred jokes over great art, and that’s precisely the spirit in which this so-called memoir is presented. Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is a satire of the biopic genre. As such, it has more in common with This Is Spinal Tap or Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Even then, it falls far short of the high bar set by those films. For one thing, it would help if there was more than a kernel of truth. The events depicted here bear little resemblance to anything he actually did.

There is one laugh-out-loud sequence. It occurs about 30 minutes in. Radio broadcaster Dr. Demento (Rainn Wilson) takes “Weird Al” (Daniel Radcliffe) under his wing and offers him an opportunity for success. At his pool party, Demento introduces Al to various celebrities. It’s an incongruous gathering of eclectic individuals that includes Andy Warhol (Conan O’Brien), Tiny Tim (Demetri Martin), Pee Wee Herman (Jorma Taccone), Salvador Dali (Emo Philips), Divine (Nina West), Alice Cooper (Akiva Schaffer) and Gallagher (Paul F. Tompkins). Unconvinced of his talent, Wolfman Jack (Jack Black) dares him to come up with a new parody song right there on the spot. Someone shouts out, “Another One Bites the Dust” as a suggestion. Turns out it’s John Deacon (David Dastmalchian), the bassist for Queen. The fact that no one at the party has ever heard of him is a hoot.

The rest of the movie isn’t as inspired. The narrative follows the same formulaic beats of a music documentary but with all sorts of random feats the man never accomplished. His debut album goes quintuple platinum. He gains fans worldwide, including talk show host Oprah Winfrey (Quinta Brunson) and drug lord Pablo Escobar (Arturo Castro). Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is a mishmash of developments so far-fetched that this could have been fabricated around any celebrity. In an extended tangent, Al has a torrid affair with Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood). Their relationship would make this a better biography about, say, Vanilla Ice — a singer that did, in fact, date Madonna. A kidnapping plot involving the “Material Girl” grows tiresome. The point is the whole thing is a complete joke. By the end, the chronicle descends into a Jim Morrison-esque fall from grace. It’s so stridently relentless in attempting to be funny…it isn’t. I give this movie the same response “Weird Al” offers after John Deacon invites Al to perform with Queen on stage at Live Aid: “Hard pass!”