UHF is a 1988 comedy film starring Weird Al Yankovic, David Bowe (not Bowie), Michael Richards (Kramer), Victoria Jackson, and Fran Drescher, featuring Gedde Watanabe and Trinidad Silva. It was written and directed by Weird Al himself. I watched this film with my best friend and his roomate, who thankfully introduced us to this majestic piece of poop.
The distributor of the film, Orion Pictures, was facing serious financial trouble. It was believed at Orion that UHF would be a huge financial success that would save the company. For obvious reasons which I will discuss, it was not. I feel bad, because Orion literally treated him like he was a prophecy fulfilled. It was a critical and failure upon release, and its modest success did not save Orion, but it has since garnered a cult following on home video, and it will be quite obvious to see why.
This might be the most difficult film I will ever have to review. From almost every analytical perspective of good filmmaking, UHF is a massive failure. Weird Al is a horrible director who uses very standard cinematographic techniques. He uses close ups quite often, I’m not really sure why that is but hey. The film is full of continuity errors; it’ll be daylight in one scene but evening the next (the scene will take place across town soon after the other scene). Nobody in this movie wants to be here except for Richards and Al himself. This movie is hilarious because Al takes nothing seriously while everyone else considers themselves to be above a Weird Al movie.
Victoria Jackson plays Terri, George’s girlfriend who breaks up with him after he accidentally forgets her birthday and stands her up.Jackson’s performance, like the majority in this film, is awful, which makes it great. After they break up, George leaves a voicemail, and although Jackson, like the majority of the cast, probably raised her nose at the thought of being in a dumb comedy movie…
she can’t not laugh. The three of us couldn’t not laugh at this scene. I actually know a few people who despise Weird Al, and I dare them to watch UHF and not laugh once.
The plot concerns Weird Al as a everyman, down-on-his-luck, daydreaming, well-meaning screw-up George Newman. George is gifted the deed to Channel 62, a low-budget local UHF station that nobody watches or cares about because it sucks. George is determined to make something of himself and decides to try at Channel 62. While visiting the big-budget affiliate station, George, for reasons not entirely clear, draws the ire of narcissistic and mean company head R.J. Fletcher. He also meets the recently-fired company janitor Stanley Spadowski, a mentally-impaired but enthusiastic man who loves mops. Together with his best friend Bob, the trio take Channel 62 to #1, beating out Fletcher’s station with creative new programming engineered by the imaginative George. R.J. is furious and makes multiple attempts to sabotage and destroy the station because antagonist.
Yankovic is a brilliant satirist and comedian who is much smarter than he will ever get credit for. Seriously, the guy is actually extremely smart. His first hit song came out in 1979. It was a parody of My Sharona by the Knack called My Bologna.
Al’s humor is not complex. It’s actually quite stupid…. and brilliant. It’s intelligent idiocy, and that contradiction works wonderfully and has done so for Weird Al for 30+ years. I read a comment once that stated “Weird AL has managed to stay culturally relevant far longer than some of the subjects he has parodied.” That’s the truth.
UHF is an achievement. It may very well be the stupidest thing Weird Al has had a hand in. This movie is a trainwreck. With the exception of Yankovic, Richards, Watanabe, and Silva, nobody wants to be in this movie. They were probably bitter about having to work with a dork like Al, but the thing is, Al knows how to have some fun. It is a poorly directed and edited film with stale acting and a disjointed screenplay which makes null sense, and it is freaking amazing. Yankovic, I think, went for garbage on purpose, he knew exactly what he was doing, he’s smart enough to have made UHF a more cohesive, better film, but, like that stupid-brilliant contradiction that serves him so very well, by making a terrible film, he made a great film. It’s not self-aware, it’s not trying to be bad on purpose like the Sharknado sequels that suck and don’t work. It isn’t The Room. Nothing in this film works on any level, and because of that, it works on every level. The nonsensical and poorly made nature of this film work to it’s advantage. Throughout the film, there are non-sequitur, SNL-like skits of programming featured on Channel 62. These sequences do not advance the plot or aid the film in any way except for the fact that they almost made me cry from laughing. In order to save viewing enjoyment, I will only put one of these amazing sequences in.
This is probably the least funny out of all of them.
Really, this clip just sums everything up. UHF is the weirdest film I have ever had to review. From every critical perspective, it is garbage. It seriously has the makings of one of the worst films of all time, and it is brilliant. I don’t really know what else to say. UHF is a majestic, brilliant, stupid, idiotic, borderline racially offensive, steaming pile of garbage that you simply must watch. It is the best garbage movie you will ever see. Reviewing it as a guy who enjoys the study of film has my brain going full Green Goblin.
Just go watch it.