UHF

Review No. 406

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The Bottom Line: How much you will enjoy UHF correlates directly with how much you enjoy its star.

Directed by: Jay Levey
Written by: “Weird Al” Yankovic and Jay Levey
George Newman: “Weird Al” Yankovic
Bob: David Bowe
Pamela Finklestein: Fran Drescher
Teri: Victoria Jackson
R.J. Fletcher: Kevin McCarthy
Stanley Spadowski: Michael Richards
Philo: Anthony Geary
Noodles MacIntosh: Billy Barty
Raul: Trinidad Silva
Also Starring: Belinda Bauer, David Proval, Dr. Demento, Emo Philips, Gedde Watanabe, John Paragon, the Kipper Kids, Stanley Brock, Vance Colvig Jr.

Distributed by Orion Pictures on July 21, 1989. Produced in English by the United States. Runs 97 mins. Rated PG-13 by the MPAA (slapstick violence; infrequent language).

UHF was watched on January 28, 2013.

“Because life is like a mop. Sometimes it’s full of dirt and crud and bugs and hairballs and stuff, but you’ve got to clean it out. You gotta put it in here and rinse it out and start all over again. And sometimes, life sticks to the floor so bad a mop isn’t good enough. It’s not good enough. You gotta get down here with a toothbrush and really scrub, and if that doesn’t work, if that doesn’t work…you can’t give up. You’ve got to run a window and say, ‘HEY! THESE FLOORS ARE AS DIRTY AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!'” –Stanley Spadowski (Michael Richards)

“Weird Al” Yankovic’s UHF feels like the pilot for a failed TV series, except taped straight through–feature, MadTV-esque commercials and all. Unlike several series, however, it’s quite easy to see how this one wouldn’t meet the audience it had hoped for. UHF is one of the strongest definitions of a “cult comedy” cinema has ever presented to us. It’s a pompous, giddy parody with serendipitous style and tons of satire. If you love listening to Weird Al’s music (that’s in a sense of parodies and creations alike), you’re bound to love it. But if you don’t really care for Weird Al’s humor, you should have the sense to give it a pass.

I used to be obsessed with Weird Al just as much as I currently am with film. My conversations were always one-sided (this was in fourth grade, so even I could tell that I was being incredibly obnoxious), because no one my age really cared about the auteur I was always preoccupied with. Weird Al this. Weird Al that. “Amish Paradise” this. “Fat” that. Of course the gratuity is well over and done with, but I can’t say I’ve lost interest, or that I ever will. Every time I come across something like “eBay”, “Why Does This Always Happen to Me?” (a rare non-parody classic in my book), “The Saga Begins”, or “Eat It”, I can’t help but turn it on and listen before returning to what I was in the middle of doing.

So I was in the middle on UHF. The film opens up with an Indiana Jones poke, in which Weird Al steals an Oscar statuette (yes, as in he takes the Oscar without any ownership, past or future) out of a cave, then runs all the way across the jungle, the arctic, and then the streets of an unnamed city with it as the same boulder chases him. Oh, dear, those “WARNING! Falling Rocks Ahead” signs just didn’t catch his eye, did they? The scene fades into a sequence at a burger restaurant, where it appears George Newman (Weird Al) is daydreaming. He claims he has worked too many part-time jobs in the past month, and none of them appreciate his one talent: his imagination. Seconds later, he makes a comment that gets him fired yet again.

George goes on to find job after job when all of a sudden, he finds his first full-time job in getting the local channel 62 up and running again, after a financial collapse. When he finds his efforts are too apathetic to be in front of an entire country, he spontaneously puts a janitor–enamored by his own mop–in his place. Appallingly enough, the Nielsen ratings begin to skyrocket, more and more each and every day. Despite the fact that the janitor-turned-superstar still wants to keep his part-time job as a janitor.

It sounds familiar, right? And that’s not a bad thing. In case you’ve forgotten that Weird Al loves poking fun at anything and everything, or the plot of the movie he’s poking fun at, UHF was for Weird Al what Network was for Peter Finch. Not only is it a parody, both see their final starring roles here. It was a relief that Al finally got a leading role after a series of cameos, but it’s also easy to see why this was a “one-time sort of thing.” The film, if not as clever as his musical work, is a combination of witty and dumb. That’s fine, but after such a good idea, the plot fades into a mess of whatever film parodies Al can come up with. It’s a vacillation between laughing and rounds of “name the film.”

Then there’s the ending. It’s cheesy, yes, and somewhat unintentionally. It’s also the point at which the story is brought back, after a long session of having forgotten what was even going on. You could say it sums up the film well, but also quite predictably. UHF isn’t half-bad, but it isn’t one that demands anything more than a single viewing. It’s a good “throwaway comedy,” actually. Very ’80s, gleefully cheap, and perhaps a bit forgettable. But especially funny.

B MINUS

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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8 thoughts on “UHF

  1. Love this film, but then, I’ve always been a Weird Al fan (and incidentally, I generally think his original songs are superior to his parodies.)

    It’s understandable how it became a cult classic, but it’s worth noting that it wasn’t expected to be (as opposed to some other cult classics which were designed for it). It tested exceptionally well for Orion, and they thought they were going to have a massive hit on their hands — leading them to release it in the middle of a summer that was unusually loaded with major blockbusters. I don’t know if there were any direct head-to-head competitions that opening weekend, but Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Lethal Weapon 2 and Batman were all still running at the time. Had they released it in March, it might have stood a chance; as it was, no.

    • This could’ve had a great chance at the box office, I agree with you there. And I haven’t seen Lethal Weapon 2 (or 1, but I have the director’s cuts of all the first three so that may change), but I can’t say I blame audiences; I’d instantly choose IJ3 or Batman over UHF. HOWEVER, if I wanted great movie last lines, and I knew they were in UHF (“I knew she was gonna say that!”), IJ3 and Batman would be off my radar.

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