Friday, May 18, 2012

UHF Movie Review

Several decades ago, MTV actually played music videos instead of asinine “reality” shows. This was great because it kept musicians too busy to make terrible movies. Had MTV come along sooner, we’d have fewer awful Elvis Presley films. There are still some “music video” movies made to glorify allegedly talented musicians, such as Spice World (1997) featuring The Spice Girls. "Weird Al" Yankovic, known for his humorous song parodies that make light of popular culture, starred in a movie called UHF (1989). Unlike Spice World or Presley’s G.I. Blues (1960), UHF wasn’t simply publicity for Weird Al, and was actually pretty funny.
Imaginative George Newman ("Weird Al" Yankovic) and his friend Bob (David Bowe) have just been fired from their jobs at Burger World. George’s Uncle Harvey (Stanley Brock) recently won a nearly bankrupt UHF television station in a poker game and consents to let George and Bob manage it. George turns the station into a success by letting the janitor, Stanley Spadowski (Michael Richards), host a kid’s show. George fills the broadcast day with wacky programs which bring the ratings up, saving the station. This threatens R.J. Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy), CEO of rival station Channel 8. Fletcher tries to buy the station off of Uncle Harvey who is in thousands of dollars in debt from gambling losses. George must come up with a way to save the TV station.
UHF didn’t receive much critical acclaim, but it has become a cult classic. It’s full of slapstick physical comedy that would fit well into a Saturday morning cartoon. It starts off with an Indiana Jones parody where George (dressed as Indy) is trying to retrieve an Oscar Award from some Aztec ruins. He is chased by a giant boulder out of the ruins, through various non-sequitur scenic backgrounds, and all the way to New York City where he is flattened like a pancake. The comedy is often surreal and weird; you’ll probably need to have a weird sense of humor to really enjoy the film, or maybe have just enjoyed Bugs Bunny cartoons as a kid.
The story is fairly weak, and really only serves to string together the wacky physical gags and jokes. There is a lot of satire in UHF, poking fun mostly at TV and movies. When a host for an animal show receives a delivery he says, “Badgers? We don't need no stinking badgers!” a reference to Blazing Saddles (1974). There is a scene where George imagines a rescue attempt being something like a Rambo movie; a gunshot kills more enemies than is physically possible and he catches bullets fired at him with his teeth. There are commercials for other wacky shows like “Conan the Librarian” and businesses like “Spatula City.” The references are a bit dated, but are still relatable to contemporary television. There is a talk show scene which parodies Geraldo (which itself was a precursor to Jerry Springer). Television hasn’t changed all that much since the 80’s, it seems.
Most movies that feature “music artists” take every chance it can to cram their latest hit down your throat. While Weird Al dose some songs in UHF, they are primarily in the background. George has a dream sequence which is essentially a music video of Weird Al’s Beverly Hillbillies song. This isn’t a shameless self promotion on Weird Al’s part; it really is an actual movie. It’s not a great movie, but we can’t expect something deep or profound from a movie that features a game show called “Wheel of Fish.”
UHF is a completely silly movie that has a lot of similar qualities to a Saturday morning cartoon show. You really have to have a weird sense of humor and appreciate slapstick to enjoy this movie. It’s really stupid, but lots of fun. It’s on par with movies such as Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993), The Naked Gun (1988), Hot Shots! (1991), and Blazing Saddles. It’s a pretty clean movie, too. It’s probably suitable for ages eight and up; kids would probably enjoy this movie a lot. UHF is a good time and worth some laughs. This cult classic is worth owning if you are into this kind of humor.

Here is a clip of the Rambo scene to help illustrate how ridiculous and hilarious UHF is:

Can you think of some good “music video” movies? Not musicals, but movies made to showcase a popular musician or a music group? Were there any good ones? Comment below and tell about them!

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