Every week, video companies release more films from their vaults that are critically acclaimed and loved by the masses. UHF is not one of those films. Roger Ebert gave it One Star and basically called it a disgrace to comedy. Others have lambasted it. It did poor box office when it was originally released. However, UHF has done something many films in this position have: become a cult classic. Sure, its following is small, but it's savage.
Essentially, UHF is a vehicle for the God of Musical Parody, 'Weird' Al Yankovic, probably intended to promote him as a movie funnyman a la Leslie Nielsen. Despite being riddled with great jokes and a funny premise, the film never made Yankovic a leading man.
George Newman (Yankovic) is given control of a UHF station by his gambling Uncle Harvey. Under the control of the innovative young man, U62 goes from a constant relayer of reruns to a powerhouse of original programming. Leading the pack is the children's show hosted by U62's wacky janitor, Stanley Spadowski (a pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards), but other great programs include "Wheel of Fish," "Strip Solitaire," "Celebrity Mud Wrestling" (with special guest Mikhail Gorbachev). When the little station-that-could starts threatening the ratings of network affiliate Channel 8, sadistic head honcho Kevin McCarthy starts making plans to stomp on the competition, with any means necessary.
What makes this work is that there are literally thousands of jokes in this film, ranging from quick physical bits to minor film references (George makes a mountain out of his potatoes and starts exclaiming that it means something) to full-out movie parodies (Raiders of the Lost Ark and Rambo: First Blood, Part II get a good grilling). There's no complicated jokes, no long set-ups - just gag after gag after gag.
And therein lies what is also very wrong with UHF; It tries too hard, and forgets the number one rule of great comedy - "Timing is everything." There's no relief from the deluge of funny stuff, and it becomes just this huge long squawk of somewhat amusing material. It can become mind-numbing. I recommend watching the film in half-hour increments, pausing for a few moments to cleanse the palate, so to speak.
Yankovic, for all his brilliance in crafting jokes of hit pop singles, cannot carry a film very well. His comic acting consists of battering his head against things, making weird faces, and speaking in a voice that defines "geeky." However, you really have to admire his earnestness. You can tell that he desperately wants to make you laugh. It may not work, but the effort is certainly appreciated.
UHF will not be everybody's cup of tea. Rent it and give it a try. You'll probably either absolutely love it or savagely hate it. It's one of those kind of divisive films. It's good a few minor chuckles, perhaps a guffaw here and there, but it will never be a classic of the comedy genre, like My Man Godfrey or even There's Something About Mary. It just is what it is, and you may have to discover whether that's good or bad for yourself.
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