MOVIE REVIEW | ***A.V WEEK*** UHF (1989)

Kenny Rogers got to be in a couple of movies.  The Insane Clown Posse have crapped out a few filmic turds.  Even Fred Durst has some how douched himself into a couple of director credits.  But there is no musician more suited to movies than ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic.  Yet for some reason, he’s only been given the opportunity once.  But the good news is, he grabbed hold of that opportunity and made a super dumb, super fun comedy, UHF.

After a good weekend on the punt, Harvey (Stanley Brock) accepts a rundown UHF TV station, Channel 62, as payment for a bet.  As an Australian, the concept of cheap and nasty UHF stations is something I only know about from references in American movies and TV shows.  But it seems like they were local, almost public access kind of operations.  Anywho, Channel 62 is so insignificant, Harvey casually disregards it, letting his nephew George (Yankovic) take the reigns.

Full of wide eyed wonder and innocence, George, along with his janitor Stanley (Michael Richards), turns things around and makes Channel 62 a hit with shows like ‘Conan the Librarian’, ‘Strip Solitaire’, ‘Gandhi II’ and ‘Wheel of Fish’.

Channel 62 becomes such a hit, it begins to rival the local network and it’s maniacal boss, RJ Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy).  Then, in true slobs versus snobs tradition, it’s a race to save their little world of eccentrics and nut jobs with hearts of gold, from the evil, big business devils in suits.

First of all, UHF is funny.  It’s really funny.  The story is basically just an excuse for a series of sketches and parodies (it is ‘Weird Al’, after all).  And even though most of the parodies are very of the time, Yankovic chose well, aiming for targets that are still  pop culturally relevant today, like Indiana Jones, Rambo and senstationalist talk shows.  Sure, they don’t all hold up, a mash up of Dire Straits and The Beverly Hillbillies might be a little perplexing to anyone born after 1985, but any movie built on parody is going to date itself to some degree.

The other thing that surprised me about UHF, in a really good way, was the violence.  It’s all really over the top, really cartoony and really unrealistic, but there a more jokes about death, firearms and severed limbs than you would expect from a ‘Weird Al’ vehicle.

The story is predictable, the characters have less depth than turning Beat It into Eat It and the jokes are at the lower spectrum of the brow.  But with a movie like this, none of that matters.  All those things are only there to help move from one sketch to another.  And with UHF, more than enough of those sketches are more than funny enough to make up for the couple of misses.

Watch any ‘Weird Al’ Yankocvic music video, and it’s obvious that he’s built for sketch comedy.  So even if UHF wasn’t enough of a hit to warrant more movies, I’m amazed he’s never scored a TV show.  Oh well, at least we’ll always have UHF.

Directed By – Jay Levey
Written By – ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, Jay Levey

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