Shout Factory celebrates the 25th anniversary of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s UHF by releasing it on Blu-ray. When the film debuted in the summer of 1989, “Weird Al” had already proven himself a master at parodying pop music and the accompanying videos with humorous work that made the charts and earned him two Grammys. However, his songs run only a few minutes, and while UHF has some great laughs, he and co-screenwriter/director Jay Levey aren’t able to sustain them for the length of the film.
UHF starts with a funny Raiders of the Lost Ark sequence, which gives way to George Newman (“Weird Al”), a daydreamer who can’t keep a job and can barely hold onto his girlfriend Teri (Victoria Jackson). Luckily, his Uncle Harvey (Stanley Brock) wins ownership of a rundown UHF TV station in a card game and lets George run it.
This had great potential, as “Weird Al” could have done a bunch of bits like SCTV, and he does deliver funny commercials for the movie Gandhi II and the store Spatula City, but in addition we get a clichéd story tacked on where a competitor, Channel 8 general manager R.J. Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy), tries to take the station from George unless he can raise the money to keep it. It’s that aspect that makes the film boring at times.
The cast has a lot of familiar faces, such as Billy Barty, Fran Drescher, and Emo Phillips. Michael Richards plays Stanley Spadowski, basically a dumber, buck-toothed version of Kramer. Stanley plays an integral role in the plot because he saves the station when he takes over a children’s show and it becomes a hit. But the way this is demonstrated makes no sense because it’s a bunch of people in a bar who like it, yet why a bar would have it on is not clear.
The Blu-ray has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Colors are good and blacks are adequate. The image shows a bit of damage but details come through well and grain is apparent. The audio is LPCM 2.0 and delivers an expected, limited experience for this dialogue-heavy track.
A new special feature for this release is Retrospective Panel from San Diego Comic-Con 2014 (HD, 51 min). Al is interviewed about his career by a host and takes questions from fans in this packed room. The rest of the extras are from the 2002 DVD release and in SD. There’s an Audio Commentary by Yankovic and Levey that will entertain “Weird Al” fans. Deleted Scenes (19 min) comes with commentary by “Weird Al” about the scenes and characters that were cut. There’s Behind-the-Scenes Footage (4 min), a Music Video (4 min) for UHF but I don’t remember hearing it in the film, a Production Stills gallery, and Promotional Materials. The packaging mentions Easter Eggs, but I am not sure what they are.
UHF works as a silly kids’ movie, though I wonder how many would get the dated references. Surprisingly it takes 32 minutes before the first music video parody appears in the oddly titled “Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies,” using the Dire Straits to tell the story of Jed Clampett. Would have expected more but maybe “Weird Al” was trying to stretch. UHF is a good movie to watch with friends who you could talk with during the slow parts.