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Review: UHF (1989)

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Best Bad Quote:
“Broads don’t belong in Broadcasting.”
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I gotta say, I have a soft spot in my heart for ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic. I remember rocking out to his jams with my big bro. “Eat It,” “I Think I’m a Clone Now,” “I Want a New Duck…” Classics. This man had mad rhyme skills and pinpoint pop-cultural references that make Eminem look like Vanilla Ice (or is there a difference?). Naturally, I was psyched when Al’s big feature debut UHF was released, and the outrageous, WTF cut-up of a film didn’t disappoint. Of course, that was because I was six. Life… It changes you.
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Making use of Weird Al’s knack for mockery and harmless satire, UHF tells the story of the daydreamer George Newman (Al) who by a twist of fate is able to live out his idealistic fantasies by managing his own television station: UHF 62. With his head constantly in the clouds, George has a sh*t ton of show ideas but lacks the discipline or intelligence to see them through. His buddy Bob, crazy scientist friend Philo, and secretary (Fran Drescher) try to help him out, but the only money coming in is from their piss poor sponsor: Spatula City– a store literally full of spatulas. (How silly). The only programs on George’s inherited station are old reruns. Needless to say, the ratings are terrible, and George eventually becomes so overwhelmed with stress that he neglects then loses his girlfriend Teri, played by SNL alum Victoria Jackson. (PS: The broken-hearted message he leaves on her legit answering machine is probably one of the funniest moments). To make matters worse, his nemesis on Channel 8, R.J. Fletcher (Kevin the Man McCarthy of Invasion of the Body Snatchers: shazam!), is trying to bury him and turn his little studio into a parking lot. Ugh.
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The tables turn when George poaches R.J.’s enthusiastic and recently fired janitor, Stanley Spadowski (Michael Richards, with giant teeth but luckily no racial slurs). It turns out that Stanley is a pretty damn good show-host, and when he picks up the slack on the dwindling children’s hour– wherein lucky kids get to drink form a live fire hose– the station has its first hit! Suddenly, business is booming. George dreams up brand new concepts and puts them on the air, including “Conan the Librarian,” “Wheel of Fish,” and “Mysteries of the Universe”– in which viewers are taught to make plutonium with household chemicals. Now it is R.J. who is sweating, but he’s not going down without a fight. Game on!
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But not really, because it’s really hard to give a damn about what’s going on in this thing. The movie definitely has its moments of entertaining spoof humor. For example, the opening sequence has Weird Al lampooning Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, except he enters a dangerous cave to filch an Oscar instead of a Golden idol. He also interprets Sylvester Stallone as Rambo, pays homage to Treasure of the Sierra Madre– “Badgers? Badgers?! We don’t need no stinking badgers!!!”– and introduces the film’s theme song complete with a Dire Straits mockery video “Money for Nothing.” Of course, in this case, the lyrics are rewritten Al-style and made Television and thus UHF related. Ergo, the lyric “I want my MTV” becomes “Bev-er-ly Hill-bill-eeeees.” These little knocks on nostalgia and pop culture are amusing, but none of them are laugh out loud. At best, they produce internal smiles. At worst, you become helplessly hypnotized by Al’s white man’s fro.
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Sadly, the overly daffy brand of comedy the film offers is not anchored with the proper writing. It has a story, but not one you care about, because it is all over the place. This is not The Naked Gun, where badass Leslie Nielsen shoots off straight-faced one-liners like a pro within a convoluted but well constructed plot. I can see why I loved UHF as a kid, but as a thirty-year-old lady of no leisure time, it basically just sucks. Then it makes you angry. Those are 97 minutes you will NEVER get back. I’ve got a new song for you, Al. It’s your typical hat-tipping rip-off set to the amazing David Bowie/Trent Reznor collaboration. I like to call it: “I’m Afraid of Comedians.”
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I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. I feel bad. I mean, Weird Al does have a certain amount of charisma. He’s a likable guy, and I honestly appreciate his oddness. You gotta hand it to a dude who unapologetically does his own thing. The world needs more “Weird-os.” They’re the only interesting people around. Still, an actor Al is not. His rubber-faced (literally) deliveries and acknowledged overacting, while commendable in an oddball way, aren’t quite charming enough to make his brand of funny sustain 90 minutes. Unlike Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, which is so over the top that it remains entertaining even to adults, Al can’t seem to pick a side between intelligent comedy done hammily nor hammy comedy structured with intelligence. After the first 20 minutes, I started clocking out. Sorry, buddy. You should have stuck to 200 second videos. Brevity is the source of your comedy. “I Can’t Watch This.” (Hammer time).
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Rating:
1 out of 5 Unjustified Jed Clampetts (It was really hard to find pics of this, so let me know if you want another rating sitch).
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