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Jay Levey
'Weird Al' Yankovic, Victoria Jackson, Kevin McCarthy, Michael Richards
'Weird Al' Yankovic, Jay Levey

It's crazy. It's zany. It's hysterical. It's TV according to "Weird Al" Yankovic.
Rated PG-13.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Standard 1.33:1
English Dolby Surround
French Dolby Surround
Spanish Digital Mono
English, Spanish, French

Runtime: 97 min.
Price: $14.95
Release Date: 6/4/2002

• Deleted Scenes
• Behind-The-Scenes Footage
• Audio Commentary with Al Yankovic, Director Jay Levey, Michael Richards, Emo Philips and Victoria Jackson
• Music Video ("UHF")
• Production Stills
• Easter Eggs
• Promotional Materials

Music soundtrack

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UHF (1989)

Reviewed by Blake Kenny

It’s hard to be a product of the 70’s - who grew up and was raised by television in the 80’s - and not have some kind of familiarity with Weird Al Yankovic. Simply put the 1980’s were a time when MTV was all the rage and shows like Friday Night Videos kept many young kids and teenagers alike up way past their bedtimes. Music videos were hot, not to say that they aren’t still hot today, but back then it was all fairly new to us and nothing could beat seeing your favorite performers on something other than magazines pages

It was during these early days of the music video that the curly haired Weird Al Yankovic - dressed in his now trademark Hawaiian t-shirts first made his presence know. At least it’s the first time that I recall seeing him. Weird Al essentially made a career out of taking the latest, greatest pop culture hits of the time and twisting and contorting them into his own unique - and some may say - seriously twisted vision. While the musical beat from these hit tunes remained much the same, the lyrics always fell pray to his wacky sense of humor. Song lyrics were entirely re-written and along with his usually hilarious music videos - Weird Al instantly became the granddaddy of the modern day parody.

Mega hits like Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” were put under the knife and sown back together with new titles such as “Like a Surgeon”. Michael Jackson - who was undeniably at the peak of his career in the 80’s fell victim to Weird Al several times; with humorous adaptations like “Fat” instead of Jackson’s original - “Bad.” Few, big name celebrities of the time were spared. In fact, even to this day, Weird Al is still poking fun at some of our newest sensations. “Pretty fly for a Rabbi” is a parody of Offspring’s hit song “Pretty Fly for a White Guy” - and the list goes on.

One might assume that the butchering of these now classic songs would incite the wrath of the original artists, but this was seldom the case. In fact, many considered Weird Al’s parodies to be a sign of you status in the industry of singer/songwriters. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery - and Weird Al selected only the biggest hits to make a mockery of.

With all of his success making truckloads of crazy music videos and releasing several albums, it was only a matter of time before Weird Al made his transition to the big screen; and that my friends is were UHF comes in.

UHF, which was partially written by Weird Al tells the tale of George Newman (of course played by Weird Al) as young man who goes from one dead end job to another and seems to have a rather difficult time keeping his over active imagination in check. As the story opens, George is fired from yet another job and seems to have absolutely no direction in his life. Opportunity strikes when his uncle Harvey (Stanley Brock) - who is clearly addicted to gambling, happens to win the deed to a rather pathetic and dying UHF channel. Since uncle Harvey has absolutely no interest what so ever in running the station himself, he reluctantly hands over the management duties to his nephew George. George makes a run at keeping the TV station going as well as he can; choosing not only to play the excessive number or television re-runs in the stations library, but to venture out and create his own unique programming as well. When it becomes painfully clear that the station is doomed to bankruptcy - he walks out in the middle of his newly created children’s show, on the way handing the reigns over to his bumbling idiot of a Janitor - Stanley Spadowski (played my Michael Richards).

“Hey Stanley!”

“Yaaa George.”

“How’d you like your own TV show?”


So the tide turns and as luck my have it, Spadowski’s screen presence, along with his dimwitted personally instantly turns the show and the stations fortune around. The renamed - “Stanley Spadowski’s Clubhouse” becomes a huge hit with children and adults alike. This comes to no surprise since Michael Richards, who is best known for his role as Cosmo Kramer in TV’s Seinfeld already shows an amazing flair for comedy. Even at this point in his career, the early signs of what will one day be Cosmo Kramer are already very evident. Richards' ability to play off of props and bounce off the walls is uncanny; and in many ways he steals the show from what is basically Weird Al Yankovic’s movie.

Anyway, I digress. Adding to the stations already growing popularity, George uses his vivid imagination - as only Weird Al Yankovic can - to create a whole slew of additional new shows. All are equally ridiculous and at the same time sadistically interesting, you know, it’s kinda like trying to look away from a car crash. After all, who wouldn’t want to win their body weight in fresh fish on the stations latest game show “The Wheel of Fish”. And who doesn’t want to learn more about the wonders of nature on “Raul’s Wild Kingdom”, which is filmed on location directly from Raul’s apartment. Other new shows include “Town Talk with George” which is basically trash TV similar to today’s ”Jerry Springer” and last but not least “Conan the Librarian” - who displays unrelenting anger when your library books are returned overdue. Throughout the movie Yankovic also pokes fun, like he did with his music videos, at a lot of pop culture films. Close Encounter of the Third Kind, Raider of the Lost Ark and Rambo just to name a few.

It at about this point in my review that you’re probably wonder if this movie has any plot what so ever. Well it does, all be it a small one. The film essentially follows a very simplistic and time-honoured formula. It’s the little guy versus the tyrannical corporate giant. When UHF channel 62’s ratings begin to soar, another local TV station - a network affiliate controlled by the power hungry and perpetually cranky R.J. Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy) begins to feel the pressure - and it’s here that the real story begins.

It seems that Uncle Harvey’s gambling has become quite a problem and he’s amassed a rather sizable debt of $75k. R.J. Fletcher seeing this as his easiest way to rid himself of George Newman’s quirky programming once and for all plans to buy Uncle Harvey’s debt in exchange for channel 62’s ownership. Once he has it, there’s nothing to stop him from bulldozing the little TV station into the ground and once again achieving television superiority. However, all is not lost. George finds himself with 48 hours to figure out a way to get some money together and purchase for the station himself - thus saving UHF channel 62 from going off the air - permanently.

As far as the cast in concerned it’s pretty hard to argue over the choice of Weird Al Yankovic as the star, especially since he wrote it with himself in mind.. Weird Al’s character comes across as a lovable and innovative person who means well and seems to have the best intentions with everything he does.

Despite Weird Al being hilarious, I really have to throw kudos toward Michael Richards, who was easily the most interesting actor in the entire movie. He’s perfectly cast in the role of the immature or perhaps - mentally challenged janitor Stanley Spadowski. He’s a very physical comedian who’s seems capable of producing big laughs without even saying a word.

Kevin McCarthy is also great as the villainous R.J. Fletcher, owner/operator of channel 8. As the only reputable actor (at least when this movie was filmed) in the entire picture, McCarthy seems to have little difficulty adapting to a comedic role.

Also making an appearance as Weird Al’s love interest we find former Saturday Night Live regular Victoria Jackson. Jackson also has very little screen time. That’s not really a bad thing since the romantic chemistry between Yankovic and Jackson is rather laughable, even in the context of a movie that isn’t intended to be taken seriously in the first place. Jackson currently resides in the “Where are they now?” files.

Rounding out the cast we find Fran Drescher from the hit TV show The Nanny. She plays channel 62’s secretary and aspiring news anchor. Fortunately for us she gets very little screen time, which is a welcome relief since that whinny, high pitched and utterly horrible voice of hers seems to cause blood to start pouring from my ears every time she opens her mouth.

The DVD Grades: Picture B- / Audio C+ / Bonus B-

UHF is presented on a double-sided disc sporting both a full frame 4:3 version as well as the original theatrical 1.85:1 version. The film has also been enhanced for 16:9 televisions.

When you pay a very small price for a DVD you can’t help but expect some grain and video defects. To my surprise the video quality is far better than I ever imagined. While it’s not perfect, the video is crisp and clean throughout. There were a few speckles from time to time, but they were so few and far between that I hardly even noticed them. There was also some grain in a few of the darker scenes, but it was well within acceptable limits and at no time distracting to the eye. The palette was also very good, with dark, high contrast blacks and rich, vibrant colors - although I did notice reds were a little over saturated. Still, all things taken into account, the picture quality was very good and at no time could I have hoped for much better.

UHF provides both English and French Stereo Surround as well and a Mono Spanish track.

While a lot of older movies being released on DVD have been getting the Dolby Digital 5.1 treatment as of late, UHF sticks with your basic Stereo Surround. Considering the content of the film, which is 100% comedy, this is more than suitable. For a story that centers more around cheap gangs rather than machinegun fire and explosions, there really isn’t much need for the rear surrounds, although they are put in to use when there is music. The front left and right speakers also get a great workout sending sound back and forth during the movie’s “Spatula City” commercial. Other than that I found the sound to be very clean, with no noticeable traces of tinny voice.

For such an affordably priced DVD, I really didn’t expect a whole lot of special features to grace UHF, but to my surprise the disc does provide a few nice little extras. First off we have a behind the scenes featurette that runs for 3 minutes and 38 seconds. Overall this provides little behind the scenes information and seems to be made up mostly of comments from the cast. Most of them discussing how Weird Al is just as strange and bizarre in real life as he is in the movie. It does however provide one amusing little moment that takes place after the “Wheel of Fish” shoot. In this piece Weird Al shows his generosity by giving small children the fish from the wheel to take home with them. It’s hard not to smirk when you see an 80lb kid walking around the set with a 15lb red snapper in his arms.

Next we have some deleted scenes. In all honesty I thought this entire portion of the DVD was nothing but an elaborate prank. When you click on the button to watch the delete scenes, Weird Al comes out from the side of the screen and tells you that you have to flip over the disc to see that feature. Which each addition click of the button Weird Al comes out a little more annoyed than the last - and explains once again that you need to flip the disc over. Well eventually I did flip it over, and truth be told I half expect him to say the same thing on the other side. It just felts like sort of thing Weird Al would find funny. Well I was wrong, and the other side did indeed contain the deleted material.

The deleted scenes run for 19 minutes and 10 seconds. Each of the many scenes, some long and some short were strung together in one huge compilation. Many of the scenes are punctuated by comments from Weird Al. Primarily explaining that the reason the scenes were cut from the film in the first place was because “They Suck!”

The deleted scenes really were a blast to see, and for fans of the film they will definitely entice some laughter. There were a few hilarious moments were the scenes were so long and loaded with boring dialogue that Weird Al would actually cut into the middle of it and say something like “Blah Blah Blah Blah” and then proceed to fast forward the video for you. I’ve come to notice that 9 times out of 10 deleted scenes really aren’t all the great, but due to the nice touch of humor provided by Weird Al - I could hardly stop laughing, this is definitely one of best examples of deleted scenes that I have seen to date.

Next up we have the music video that aired on MTV and other stations to promote the movie. It’s nothing special and many of you who watched videos during the 80’s have most likely seen it before. It’s traditional stuff from Weird Al with him mimicking celebrities like Axle Rose, George Michaels, Robert Palmer, Bob Dylan and a handful of other artists.

Easily the best feature on this disc after the deleted scenes is the audio commentary by Weird Al and co-writer/director Jay Levey. The two share great chemistry during the bit, which isn’t entirely surprising when you learn that Jay Levey has been Weird Al’s manager since 1981. While Weird Al certainly dominates the piece, Jay Levey is very active and puts in his two cents from time to time. As you might expect Weird Al is a complete goofball during this audio segment and tries his best to make the commentary as entertaining for the watcher as possible. I thought he succeeded admirably - almost making the commentary more enjoyable than the film itself. One of the funnier things about Weird Al is how he seems to remember absolutely everything that had to do with the movies production. He loves to talk about where a particular scene was shot and then rattle of the address for the viewer’s benefit - like we’re all going to jump into our cars and go see the actual UHF channel 62 building for ourselves. Whether he’s just making all this stuff all up, reading it off a piece of paper or he has a photographic memory is anyone’s guess, but it sure was amusing. This audio commentary was a really great addition to the DVD.

Last but not least there are some production stills as well as some promotional material. Not a whole lot to say here since these are usually the most drab and dull parts of any DVD.

All in all, the supplemental material provided with this disc was decent. Fans of the film and Weird Al in general will surly enjoy the deleted scenes and the audio commentary. While the rest of the features weren’t anything special, I found myself pretty satisfied with the package.

Overall UHF is a really campy film that’s covered with an extra dose of cheese just for good measure. Lets face it, this movie wasn’t intended to replace “Gone with the Wind”. Its intention is to be an off the wall, ridiculous movie that will hopefully coax a laugh out of the viewer from time to time. UHF has the reputation of being somewhat of a cult favorite and surprisingly the film still holds up rather well - despite having a lot of pop culture references to the music and films of the 80’s.

Even thought the picture isn’t perfect and does show a little grit here and there, it’s still extremely clean and crisp when you consider the age of the original print material. The Dolby Surround soundtrack is also very good, after all, it’s realistically all that’s needed when the subject matter is comedy. Add in a few great special features and an incredibly low retail cost ranging from anywhere between $9-12 USD, it’s a no-brainer - just like the man who created it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1086 Stars Number of Votes: 46
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