Release date: July 21, 1989
Directed by: Jay Levey
Starring: “Weird Al” Yankovic, Kevin McCarthy, Michael Richards, Fran Drescher, David Bowe, Victoria Jackson
Budget: $5 million
Box office: $6.1 million
After being fired from his fast food job, George Newman becomes the manager of a local UHF television station.
UHF is basically what happens when Yankovic turns some of his songs into a feature-length film, something which could have been nothing more than a lame marketing attempt for him to tell a terrible story connected by his songs. The end result is so much more, with audiences receiving a film full of excellent weirdness and hilarity. The plotline is pretty basic and goes in the expected direction a film such as this would go. However, for every obvious moment, there are numerous times the film successfully veers off in an offbeat direction. The film feels self-aware, knowing exactly who made it and what kind of film it is, and just has fun with all the absurdity. It even employs a music video midway through the film that makes sense considering everything preceding it and doesn’t come off as an attempt at padding.
The characterization is great in this film, too. Newman may be a hopeless daydreamer, but he’s the essential straight man compared to everyone else around him. Nearly every single person he runs into is just another example of the strange and bizarre world the film throws its audience into. Additionally, whether it’s a moronic janitor who has an unhealthy fixation on mops and an unexplained way with kids or any of the characters appearing on the channel’s programming, none of them are particularly unlikeable. Even the villain has charm as an over the top executive whose cartoonish actions fit in well with the overall tone of the film.
The acting is also pretty good. Yankovic does well as the straight man in his reactions to the crazy shenanigans happening around him. His exasperation in some moments and bewilderment in others feels completely natural. Further, Richards is able to suck all the emotion out of himself and utilize it perfectly in order to steal every scene he’s in and McCarthy always uses the right amount of energy to eat the set and make his cartoonishly evil character seem convincing.
It all comes together to form an enjoyable comedy, able to turn random oddities and turn them into a fun experience.