Thursday, May 06, 2010

“For those of you just joining us, today we're teaching poodles how to fly.”

This one’s just a shameless excuse to look at one of the formative movies of my youth. 1989’s UHF is not a complicated movie. It’s a vehicle for novelty/parody songster “Weird Al” Yankovic, and its really not a surprise that it tanked at the box office and became a cult classic on video.

Well, our hero is a well-meaning nice guy who’s a constant daydreamer. This gets him fired from most jobs that require an attention span. However, when his uncle wins a terrible local TV station in a game of poker, our guy ends up being given control of the station and after a few teething problems, local channel U-62 gets some wildly popular shows and draws the irate attention of the big, bad network affiliate station. Yeah, its not deep at all, but hilarity still ensues.

George Newman: “Weird Al” Yankovic plays pretty much himself (or at least his public persona) of a likable goofball with an insane imagination and a penchant for amusingly lyric-ed parody songs.

Teri: Victoria Jackson (who was on SNL for a while) plays George’s long suffering girlfriend. That’s…about all I can think of to say about the character. Uhhh, she works in a dentist’s office?

Bob: David Bowe (not David Bowie) is George’s best friend and the resident voice of reason.

R.J. Fletcher: Kevin McCarthy chews through scenery like that Asian guy in those hot dog eating contests they show on ESPN every year. He’s our villain, the guy who runs Channel 8, the local network affiliate, with an iron fist. Hilariously dictatorial, the guy’s just an asshole.

Stanley Spadowski: Michael Richards (yep, TV’s Kramer) is the dim-witted janitor of U-62 who gets a TV show when George goes through a brief mental breakdown. The show turns out to be the highest rated show in town and signals the reversal of U-62’s fortunes.

Pamela Finkelstein: Fran Drescher (yep, that one) is the station’s secretary who gets promoted to reporter for U-62.

Philo: Anthony Geary is the station’s engineer and resident mad scientist. He also gets a show, appropriately about science.

Noodles MacIntosh: Legendary little person actor Billy Barty is one of the cameramen for U-62.

Uncle Harvey & Aunt Esther: Stanley Brock & Sue Ane Langdon are George’s relatives who give him control of the station. Harvey’s a sleaze who ends up owing money to a dangerous “Big Louie” which prompts a telethon to save the station.

Kuni: Gedde Watanabe is George’s neighbor who runs a martial arts dojo. He ALSO gets a show, and it is hilarious.

Raul Hernandez: Trinidad Silva (who sadly died in a car accident before all of his scenes were filmed) is the film’s badass. Not just because of the tragic nature of his death, but also because the two segments that he’s in are easily the funniest for their sheer insanity. "Raul’s Wild Kingdom" is one of the greatest gags this movie has to offer.

Directed by Jay Levey, the film is competently shot and there’s a lot of visual comedy thrown around. There’s the occasional cartoonish elements and a lot of dream sequences that parody other films (Indiana Jones, Rambo, etc). Sure its not Oscar-worthy, but it gets the job done clearly and efficiently, and that’s not a bad thing.

Written by Al Yankovic and Jay Levey, the movie is just plain goofy. Dialogue is amusing, the characters, while not necessarily complex, work well together, and the real strength of the film are the dream sequences and snippets of U-62’s off kilter programming. You get stuff like “Wheel of Fish,” “Celebrity Mud Wrestling” and “Conan the Librarian.”

Original music by John Du Prez, which is fine, but the real musical stuff that stands out is what you get from “Weird Al” and his band. Most notably the parody of Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing,” “Beverly Hillbillies” which is also, oddly enough, one of the least comically goofy segments of the entire movie.

Look. I know UHF is a goofy, goofy movie. I still love the pluperfect hell out of it unapologetically. Totally recommended for a good, honest laugh.

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