Craptastic Cinema

Celebrating The Best Of The Worst Movies

UHF

Year : 1989 Director : Jay Levey Running Time : 97 Minutes Genre :
Movie review score
5/5

It was a hot Summer evening in 1999.  My wife and I made our way to our front row seats to see “Weird Al” Yankovic in concert at The California State Fair.  We were quite early, so we had plenty of time chit chat with the people sitting around us.  To our left were two girls who were wearing shirts exposing that they had “I”, heart shape, “A”, and “L” written across their collective breasts.  To our right was a father and his ten year old son.  The father was telling me how this was the last straw for going to concerts for his son.  He explained to me that he has taken his son to around ten concerts, and that he either fell asleep, or acted badly for every one.  I inquired what shows he had taken his boy to, and he replied bands like Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, and other classic rock acts.  After hearing the list, I assured him that his son would have a blast at this concert, and he had nothing to worry about.  Those are all great bands, but not bands a young kid would love.  Once the show started, with Al playing his parody song “Gump“, that little boy jumped out of his seat and started to dance.  He didn’t stop dancing until the show was over, almost a hour and a half later.  Everyone in the front row loved that kid.  We would pick him up if he asked, made way for him to dance more, and just allowed him to have the time of his life.  Even Al noticed.  During his encore, which he referred to as “The Jedi Melody” consisting of “The Saga Begins” and “Yoda“, Al took off his scarf and tossed it down to the kid.  Throughout the concert, I would look at that little kid dancing and reflect on how much I had loved Weird Al my entire life.  In fact, I was around the same age as him when Weird Al was perhaps at his most popular.  It was around this time that he released his theatrical movie UHF.

UHF is a movie about a struggling television station, U62, that is on the verge of being shut down due to poor ratings.  Harvey Bilchek (Stanley Brock) is a gambler on a winning streak.  His nephew, George Newman (Yankovic), is a daydreamer who can not keep a job.  Harvey wins U62 in a poker game and, with the encouragement of his wife, gives that station to George to do with it what he wants.  George takes his best friend Bob (David Bowe) along with him, considering George got Bob fired too.  When they arrive at U62, they meet the interesting cast of characters who work there.  Among them is Pamela Finklestein (Fran Drescher) who is a receptionist that was promised a broadcast journalist position, but has been overlooked with the ever changing management of the station.  They also meet Philo (Anthony Geary), the station engineer who is also a border line insane scientist.  Later on, we are also introduced to the dwarf camera man Noodles MacIntosh (Billy Barty).  Side note, Anthony Geary and Billy Barty star in other Craptastic Cinema Inducted movies Disorderlies and Masters of the Universe respectfully.

Across town is the network affiliate station, Channel 8, ran by R.J. Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy).  Channel 8 is a ratings juggernaut.  R.J. himself could be described as an evil tyrant.  He belittles his staff, and takes pleasure in firing people.  George, after having a package for R.J. delivered to U62 by mistake, decides to go to Channel 8 and introduce himself to R.J..  It is then that George discovers how rude R.J. really is.  While leaving, George meets Stanley Spadowski (Michael Richards).  Stanley was just fired after being accused of throwing away an important file from R.J.’s desk.  Stanley is more upset over the fact that they confiscated a mop that was given to him for his birthday when he was 8 years old.  George, feeling sorry for Stanley, offers him a job as the janitor for U62.

No matter how hard George tried, his station could not climb in the ratings.  He tried making “local” programming, but nothing was working.  It was also around this time that his girlfriend Teri (Victoria Jackson), broke up with him due to not giving her enough attention.  This drove George to walk off the set of a show he was the star of, named “Uncle Nutzy’s Clubhouse”.  On his way out the door, he offered the show to Stanley who was standing in the hallway watching cartoons.  When George goes to a bar to drown out his sorrows, with a blueberry daiquiri of all drinks, he realizes that everyone is tuned in watching Stanley acting like a buffoon.  U62 had a hit.  After rebuilding the station around the newly renamed “Stanley Spadowski’s Clubhouse”, they start to climb in the ratings.  R.J. Fletcher at first blows them off, until his station starts to lose ratings.

As U62 was climbing the ratings, George’s Uncle Harvey starts to lose at the horse track.  He racks up a debt of $75,000, and he has to pay up fast.  R.J. offers to buy the station, but Harvey gave George the chance to earn the money himself.  If George does not come up with the $75,000 in two days, R.J. will buy U62, and tear it down.  The movie at this point become a race against the clock to raise the money, and save the station.

When UHF came out in 1989, it did horribly in the theaters.  The summer of 1989 was dominated by movies like Ghostbusters 2, Honey I Shrunk The Kids, License To Kill, Lethal Weapon 2, and a little movie called Batman.  UHF didn’t even last a month in the theaters because of the competition.  It also got panned by the critics.  It’s popularity came when it was released on VHS.  Kids like me would rent UHF over and over again, laughing our little butts off the entire time.  The VHS went out of print, and for a while there they were considered collectors item.  I remember working at a used music/movie store, and we were able to charge $35-$50 a copy for the tape, and it sold every time we found one.  When the DVD was released in 2002, it was one of the best selling DVDs of the year.

UHF plays very much like a Weird Al album.  There is a mix of original material with parodies.  In the movie, parodies of Indiana Jones, Conan The Barbarian, Gandhi, Rambo: First Blood Part II, and even Geraldo Rivera, make up a large portion of the story.   Not enough to say UHF is a parody skit film, but again it does make up a good chunk of the movie.  Also, there are the television shows George creates for the station.  These are hilarious.  My personal favorite is Wheel of Fish.

On the Craptastic Scale, UHF gets a 5 out of 5.  This is without a doubt a cult classic that deserves to be in every movie collection.  Trust me when I say that when people see this in your collection, they will make a point of noticing it.  The humor is childish, but never offensive.  It’s dumb humor, but not humor that makes you dumb laughing at it.  In fact, this is a movie that the entire family can laugh at together.  Some of the references are dated now.  I do not know too many 10 year old kids who would know who Gandhi is these days, but that really doesn’t matter.  Everything is done as a gag, and it is easy to laugh at.  It is not out on BluRay, but still in print on DVD.  You can pick one up on Amazon for under $10 new, under $1 used.  If you do buy it, please use the link provided below.  It helps out this site and offers you the best price around.

I fully recommend UHF for a great laugh, and good times.  It is like a time machine that transforms all of us into the child version of ourselves.  Who wouldn’t like that for a couple hours?

-Matt Camarco

Please support Craptastic Cinema by purchasing UHF through the link below.

 

One final moment of Weird Al.  This is more or less my theme song for life.  Don’t be afraid to Dare to be Stupid

 


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