Today Video Vault remembers “Weird Al” Yankovic’s cult classic UHF! Hot off the heals of one of Orion Pictures’s best test screenings ever, the film was expected to save the studio in the summer of 1989. As we all know, this didn’t happen. Mixed reviews and heavy box office competition from the likes of Batman, Ghostbusters 2, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Lethal Weapon 2, When Harry Met Sally, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade lead to poor box office returns. The universe does have a way of correcting itself, however, and UHF was a top 10 blockbuster when it was finally released on DVD in 2002. Directed by Jay Levey, this fast-paced, sketch-heavy comedy also features David Bowe, Fran Drescher, Victoria Jackson, Kevin McCarthy, Michael Richards, Gedde Watanabe, Billy Barty, Anthony Geary, Emo Philips, and Trinidad Silva.
When George Newman (Yankovic) receives the deed to a bankrupt UHF station from his gambler uncle, Harvey, it is his chance to prove to the world that he can make something of himself. The rag tag station crew is unable to turn Channel 62 around until mentally handicapped janitor, Stanley Spadowski (Richards), is given a children’s show hosting job by default. “Stanley Spadowsky’s Clubhouse” becomes a surprise hit and Newman begins producing more absurd programming to fill up airtime. As Channel 62 goes to #1 in the ratings, rival network channel owner R.J. Fletcher (McCarthy) is willing to do anything to take them down. Uncle Harvey loses $75,000 at the horse races and Fletcher offers to buy the station, but first George gets a chance to raise the money himself with a telethon selling Channel 62 stock. Fletcher’s goon squad kidnaps Stanley, which slows down the telethon before they reach the $75,000 goal. It’s up to George to save the day! Honestly though, the plot is pretty insignificant as much of the movie is comprised of Channel 62 TV programming and George’s daydreams that are basically a series of high-production value parody sketches.
Despite being most known for his contributions to the music industry, Yankovic’s unique family-friendly comedic voice translates exceptionally to the screen. The pacing never slows as a talented ensemble cast presents the warped and cartoonishly violent world of Channel 62. Stand-out segments include “Conan the Librarian”, “Ghandi II”, and a commercial for the retail outlet Spatula City, alongside parodies of Indiana Jones, First Blood, and Wheel of Fortune. Richard’s dedicated performance as the mentally challenged, mop-loving Stanley is inspired. You can tell that McCarthy is having a joyous time portraying the over-the-top evil TV executive. Unfortunately, the hilarious Trinidad Silva, the cracked host of an animal TV show who teaches poodles how to fly, was killed during the film’s production and his memorable role (and life) was cut short. Despite this, however, it is obvious that the cast and crew had a fantastic time making this movie, which always adds a layer of fun to the viewing experience. It is the kind of movie that is so dense with jokes (props, visual gags, sound effects, ect.) that each viewing finds new nuances to laugh at. This wacky celebration of the TV generation from the mind of “Weird Al” goes perfectly with Twinkie wiener sandwiches and is definitely worth checking out. In fact, if you don’t watch this movie I’ll club a baby seal. I’ll club a seal to make deal!!