Posted in: Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on July 9th, 2003
UHF is one of those cult films that has gained quite a following over the years. Fans of the film have been clamoring for a DVD release for many months now and somewhere in the hallowed halls of MGM, someone did something about it. The company is going to release a full-blown DVD of the film on June 4th that will appease the dozens and dozens of “Weird Al” Yankovic fans everywhere.
UHF is total satire and plays almost like the old Landis Kentucky Fried Movie from the 70’s. It’s target… much like Wayne’s World, is small town, local access television and in order to have fun with the premise of a loser taking over a small UHF station, Yankovic strings together parody after parody after parody to get a laugh – some work, some don’t. (What frightens me is that many of you reading this review don’t even know what a UHF station is! Whipper Snappers!) I would imagine that your all out and total enjoyment of the film depends heavily on your enjoyment of Weird Al in general.
The “plot” for this particular film is a rather easy one to follow. Al stars as George Newman, a slacker who can’t seem to hold down a job because he’s always daydreaming – about parodies. (Uggggh.) Well, after getting caught daydreaming one too many times at the burger joint he works at, his rather hefty employer decides to fire him, as well as his best friend and roommate, Bob (David Bowe). Once again, George has disappointed himself and those around him, especially his girlfriend, Teri (Victoria Jackson), a dental hygienist. George continues to be a first class loser and his prospects at success become smaller and smaller as each day passes.
However, in a complete stroke of luck, George’s Uncle Harvey (Stanley Brock) wins a failing television station, Channel 62, in a poker game and at the insistence of his wife, he turns the station over to George and Bob. Well, here’s where the comedy starts – you see, George doesn’t know anything about running a television station and now he has one of his very own! (Can you feel the comedy coming?) Changes are made the second George takes over as Pam Finklestein (Fran Drescher), who has been working as a secretary at the station for months, was promised a reporter’s job by the former owner and he never followed through. George makes good on the promise and sends her off to report on local politics and assigns her a midget cameraman, Noodles MacIntosh (Billy Barty), to film her first story.
Even with some of the changes George has made, the station is still getting killed in the ratings by rival network, Channel 8, run by the egotistical eccentric R.J. Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy). George’s kid show that he hosts is going over like a lead balloon and his audience just seems bored and apathetic about what he has to say. He’s depressed about the station (which is fixing to go bankrupt again) and to add insult to injury, Teri breaks up with him because of a forgotten dinner date on her birthday. George’s life is quickly turning to crap and he doesn’t know what to do in order to kick the station’s programming in the pants to get it going in the right direction. However, feeling especially low and dejected one day, George turns over the reigns of his kids show to Stanley Spadowski (Michael Richards), a janitor that was fired from rival station Channel 8 and hired by George. Stanley takes over and the ratings go through the roof – he’s wild and crazy (and weird) enough to keep people tuning in every day to see what he’ll do next. (Even if you haven’t seen the film, I’m sure you remember Stanley’s “drinking from the fire hose” portion of the show.) Unassuming Channel 62 is now #1 in the ratings and this causes some huge friction with Channel 8. They’ve been unseated by a bunch of rank amateurs and they’re not happy.
However, success doesn’t come without its problems. Seems that Uncle Harvey is gambling again and now he’s $75,000 in debt to the type of people that you don’t want to be indebted to. He’s considering selling the station to Channel 8 to become debt free and this isn’t sitting too well with George and his employees. With all of this weighing on his mind, George is also trying to patch things up with Teri too. How does it all end? (As if you don’t already know.) Well, tune in to Channel 62 to find out!
The film was definitely funny in parts, but there were just as many sketches that flopped like a fish out of water. To give you an idea of what to expect, Yankovic throws out stuff like “Conan The Librarian”, a commercial for “Spatula City”, a game show entitled “Wheel of Fish”, and spoofs galore on such films as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Rambo, and even Gandhi. Heck, even when UHF came out, some of these parodies were getting stale; you can imagine what they’re like revisiting them now. “Weird Al” was never meant to be taken in such large doses and at times, the 90-minutes or so he has here seemed a bit too long. While the movie was made more for personal amusement than anything else, UHF just seems to be a bit too much – and a bit too forced and labored.
It’s not a bad film by any stretch and was genuinely funny in places, as the film has aged particularly well. However, with the current film landscape being littered with parodies like Scary Movie, Scary Movie 2, and Not Another Teen Movie, UHF doesn’t do enough to stand out from the crowd.
MGM presents UHF in a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix in English, Spanish, and French with subtitles available in the same languages. Being a low budget comedy, the film is very straightforward without many elements included to impress. However, MGMs audio mix is more than adequate and gets the main points of the film across well.
The film contains mainly dialogue and it remains front-and-center for most of the film. Surround usage is pretty tame and there is very little in the way of activity in the front or the rear surrounds. There were a couple of instances of nice separation (the “Spatula City” commercial for one) and ambience (the Channel 8 newsroom), but other than these rare occasions, everything was firmly anchored in the center channel. Dialogue was a bit edgy, especially during the early going, but the problem corrected itself and seemed to get much better as the film wore on. Even so, it never affected the intelligibility of the dialogue and the proceedings were always easily understood. LFE usage was nil, while effects were cheaply done and sounded very thin, without any imaging or impressive presence noted. However, the film was made 12 years ago as a low-budget comedy – what do you expect? The material sounds as good as could be expected.
UHF doesn’t get a great mix, but it gets one that’s totally adequate for the material at hand. MGM has done a nice job and fans of the film will be quite pleased with what they hear.
UHF gets anamorphic widescreen treatment in the film’s original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. (There is a full frame presentation of the film on the flip side of the disc, but for the purposes of this review, it wasn’t checked out.) UHF was very low budget, even for its time, and is a rather generic presentation overall. While the film isn’t very visually stunning, the print itself has held up well and MGM has done a marvelous job bringing it to the DVD format.
The image is fairly detailed and sharp, with grain creeping in from time to time to cause the image to go a bit soft. The film contains a very bright color palette with hit and miss saturation. For the most part, things are properly balanced and saturated, but there are times that skin tones (as well as other elements) seemed overtly red and overdone. Other than that however, there seems to be no bleeding or oversaturation noted. Black levels are deep and dense, with no murkiness or breakup detected. Overall, a very decent image.
Issues with the print are surprisingly minor. In quick order, there are a few print flaws in the form of flakes and spots, as well as a bit of grain. Other than that however, there’s not much else to report. It’s simply the abundance of these minor flaws (and the saturation problems) that keep the score down.
MGM has done a fine job on UHF and for a low-budget film that’s around 12 years old, the print looks marvelous. However, when stacked up against more recent comedies, UHF comes across as little more than average.
MGM doesn’t give UHF a “Special Edition” tag, but that doesn’t stop them from stacking the disc quite nicely. If you’re one of the many who have been clamoring for this disc for some time, you have every reason to be excited, because your wait has paid off in spades. MGM has seen fit to add some really fun extras (and enough of them) to keep UHF from becoming one in a long line of catalog titles.
First up is a Behind The Scenes feature that runs for 4-minutes. There’s really not a whole lot included here other than a huge promotional short that was produced back when the film was being introduced to theaters. There are some behind-the-scenes snippets from filming that are edited in with some funny interview footage with Weird Al. It definitely has its moments, but it’s nothing more than an extended trailer from the film.
Deleted Scenes are next and are a slight bit annoying because we actually have to flip the disc over in order to view them. This is quite a surprise because the disc isn’t what I’d consider loaded. However, for whatever reason, MGM felt it necessary to put them on the same side of the disc as the fullscreen version of the film. In this section, Weird Al guides us through a 19-minute journey of scenes that didn’t make the final cut of the film because, according to Al, “THEY SUCK!” Al gives us what amounts to a running commentary over the scenes as none them may be selected individually and must be watched as a feature instead. The scenes themselves aren’t necessarily funnier or even less funny than any other scene that made the film, but obviously, they didn’t cut the proverbial mustard. Al gives snide comments before and after each scene and makes the experience a much funnier one than had we simply been forced to endure the scenes by themselves. Not the best collection of deleted scenes I’ve ever seen, but it’s definitely a fun way to get through them. Nice job Al and nice job MGM.
A Music Video is next and it features Weird Al singing the theme song from the film. Not the best song Al has ever done for sure, but the video itself is pretty decent. Al parodies Axl Rose, George Michael, the Talking Heads, Robert Palmer, Prince and ZZ Top to name a few. Definitely worth checking out at least once.
A Commentary by Al Yankovic and Director Jay Levey is next and is ten times funnier than the movie itself. These guys spend 90+ minutes ripping on the movie, each other, and anything else that could be considered self-depreciating and funny at the same time. Al discusses what is was like filming on location in Tulsa (that’s right, Tulsa) on such a tight budget, what it was like having his manager direct the film, working with his co-stars (many of whom happened to be comedians themselves), gags that were cut from certain scenes, low-budget special effects, physical street addresses of location shots as well as a backstory on all of them as well, people’s confusion with co-star David Bowe and David Bowie, Orion’s bankruptcy (covered during an impromptu song over the opening credits), and so on and so forth. Al even discusses different homage’s used in the film for, according to Al, “Amish people who might be watching and just got a DVD player.” Let me give you an idea of what to expect via a couple of early moments in the commentary. And I quote, “What else can I tell you about the movie? It was 97-minutes long … it’s in color … it’s a talkie … What else do you need to know really?” There’s also, “OK. Here’s the sign gag. Yeah, it went on for like 5 months too long. We get the joke already! OK … Cut!” How do you describe a commentary like this? I mean, it’s one that must be experienced rather than described. There are a couple of surprise appearances at the end of the commentary and you’ll just have to check it out yourself to find out who shows up. (It’s not to hard to figure out actually …) Regardless, when it’s all said and done, this is easily the best commentary I have listened to this year. It’s definitely Al’s show as he dominates the majority of the proceedings with Levey chiming in on occasion. The commentary is totally active and engaging and runs the entire length of the film. Funny, slightly insightful, and funny. By the way, did I mention it was funny? Definitely check this out if you are afforded the chance – one of the more uproarious commentaries I have ever listened to.
There are a ton of Production Stills to check out (not a fan of them myself), as well some Promotional Materials in the form of Teaser/Theatrical Trailers, Posters, and even DVD Production Credits.
A couple of easily found Easter Eggs can be found from this menu and aren’t even really worth mentioning. To see what I mean, click –LEFT- after you highlight the Commentary selection to see Michael Richards scream out one of his lines at you. Like I said … not worth mentioning.
A very solid package for the film – especially considering there was no “Special Edition” tag attached. I just finished reviewing Rollerball, another MGM title, and it was actually listed as a “Special Edition” and it didn’t have near the supplements that UHF does. (They did score the same in the extras department though – UHF didn’t have quite enough to be a ‘3.0’ in my book.) Whatever the case, if you’re a fan of Weird Al or UHF, MGM has done an excellent job with the supplements for the upcoming DVD and you’ll really enjoy exploring them.
UHF is an enjoyable romp and there’s no denying it. However, I just didn’t find it as funny as I did years ago and I found myself enjoying the commentary and deleted scenes much more than the film itself. However, the film has aged surprisingly well and I enjoyed it much more than expected.
As far as the DVD itself goes, fans of the film have every reason to storm store shelves when this title streets on June 4th. MGM has done an excellent job on the disc itself and has priced it to move. Even if you’re a casual fan, the $10 to $12 you can probably find the DVD for would be money well spent. However, this isn’t one of those films where my opinion is gonna make a hill of beans – you already know whether or not you want this title. But in my humble opinion, for the money, you can’t beat this one with a stick. Good disc at a great price.
Special Features List
- Behind The Scenes
- Deleted Scenes
- Music Video
- Production Stills
- Promotional Materials