Film reviews and more since 2009

The Compleat Al (1985) review

Dir. Jay Levey and Robert K. Weiss

By: Steve Pulaski

Rating: ★★★½

I credit three distinct influences for my musical tastes and my appreciation for the medium as a whole: my uncle’s Limewire-curated mixtapes — filled with everything from N.W.A. to Steve Earle — the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (foundational for my love of The Statler Brothers, Tom Petty, and more), and “Weird Al” Yankovic.

When Weird Al dropped Straight Outta Lynwood in 2006, and a friend played me “White & Nerdy,” I was christened as an Al enthusiast. I acquired every album. I wore out a couple of them. I insisted on showing friends his music videos. I spent hours on his original website (even printed the 10+ page Q&A tab!), and received a beat-up video store VHS copy of The Compleat Al from my mother one Christmas. His 2008 concert in Merrillville, IN was my first.

Even though I’m scarily close to becoming Weird Al’s own personal “Stan,” and am the “P1” target audience for The Compleat Al, I find it hard to believe even those who just know his biggest hits won’t at least be modestly entertained by this mockumentary. Most of it is complete, deliberate hokum. Die-hard Al enthusiasts will be able to decipher what’s real — the clips of his parents, the role Dr. Demento played in his come-up, etc — and what’s fake. The misdirection is compleatly in-line with a musician whose multi-decade career has been unprecedented, insurmountable, and just so damn weird.

Initially aired on Showtime before its home video release, the film tells the story of Al Yankovic’s rise from the working class community of Lynwood, CA to global superstar. Profoundly hilarious exaggerations give half-truths about the real-life events that preceded them. For example, we see Al get his first boost not only from Demento but a catalog salesman selling everything from wacky glasses to holographic golf-balls. He’s eventually signed by a group of goodfellas who refer to him as “Big Al” and “Crazy Al.” He cuts “Another One Bites the Dust” in a college bathroom (seeking out the one with the best acoustics), and begs Michael Jackson, who is on a throne, surrounded by his pet lion and monkey, Bubbles, for permission to parody “Beat It.” We know what Jackson’s answer led to…

Spliced into The Compleat Al are some of Weird Al’s most popular music videos, then and still to this day. The fact that this mockumentary was released merely two years after his debut album expels the presence of future hits like “Amish Paradise” and “Fat.” But we still get to see the songs that laid the foundation for an amazing (and still ongoing) career: “Ricky” (parody of Tony Basil’s “Mickey”) “I Love Rocky Road” (Joan Jett & the Blackhearts’ “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”), and “I Lost on Jeopardy” (The Greg Kihn Band’s “Jeopardy”).

Also featured is one of my favorite “style parodies” from Weird Al, “One More Minute,” which lampoons Elvis/Frankie Valli/doo-wop. It’s a classic that deserves as much praise as any of the aforementioned bangers.

The film was written by Al himself, alongside Hamilton Cloud, and co-directors/producers Jay Levey and Robert K. Weiss. Their commitment to the parody craft for (a slightly overlong) 95 minutes is downright commendable. Also sprinkled in are some gems from AL-TV, a recurring series of MTV specials that were made in conjunction with new Weird Al records. We’ll never see another figure quite like “Weird Al” Yankovic, and The Compleat Al helps us enjoy and appreciate that fact even more.

NOTE: The Compleat Al is now streaming on Pluto TV, Tubi, and a number of other streaming services, free of charge.

My review of Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

Directed by: Jay Levey and Robert K. Weiss.

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About Steve Pulaski

Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!

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