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MGM Studios DVD presents
UHF (1989)

"You took the box. Let's see what's in the box! NOTHING! Absolutely nothing! Stupid! You're stupid!"
- Kuni (Gedde Watanabe)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: June 02, 2002

Stars: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Other Stars: David Bowe, Fran Drescher, Victoria Jackson, Kevin McCarthy, Emo Phillips, Michael Richards
Director: Jay Levy

Manufacturer: LPMC
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for (some language and crude humor)
Run Time: 01h:37m:02s
Release Date: June 04, 2002
UPC: 027616876652
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+BB- B

DVD Review

"Weird Al" Yankovic made a pretty penny in the 1980s with his parody covers of successful pop songs (i.e. Michael Jackson's Bad became "Weird Al's" Fat), so it's appropriate that the first film he co-wrote and starred in is little more than a series of sketches and parodies of movies and music stuck together with a bit of filler about a daydreaming failure who takes over a small TV station.

Yankovic plays George Newman, a sweet sap who has never been able to hold a job for more than a few weeks. When his uncle wins a small UHF TV station in a poker game, he decides to put George in charge. The station is at the bottom of the ratings until George, inspired by the incoherent ramblings of the station janitor's (Michael Richards) deranged children's show, implements a whole new schedule full of oddball programs (Like "Wheel of Fish" and "Conan the Librarian") and Channel 62 starts to amass a following.

Yankovic is an affable star, but George's story arc is probably the film's weakest component—the outcome of every subplot, from Channel 62's budget crisis, to the conflict with the head of the local network affiliate (Kevin McCarthy), to his on-and-off relationship with squirrel-voiced Victoria Jackson, is telegraphed well in advance. But strung throughout are some inspired bits of sketch comedy (George's story is probably just there to provide a lose framework for these bits anyway).

The parody segments probably explain UHF's cult following (which developed on video after a dismal theatrical run). A mix of barely coherent lunacy ("Raul's Wild Kingdom," Michael Richard's entire psychotic performance) and fairly pointed satire (like the spot-on spoof of Rambo III), it's a mishmash of randomness that, under the restrained eye of director and music video veteran Jay Levy, somehow remains coherent, not to mention a riot throughout.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: UHF looks pretty darn good on DVD for a low-budget 1980s comedy. Colors are bright if a bit flat. Blacks are nice and solid, but many darker scenes suffer from weak contrast and can look a little muddy. Overall, the image is a bit soft, but on the plus side, the source material shows no obvious scratches or lines. I also am happy to report that artifacts and edge enhancement don't seem to be a problem.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoSpanishno
DS 2.0English, Frenchno


Audio Transfer Review: This is the sort of track that fits the film perfectly, but certainly doesn't fit anyone's idea of a reference track. The 2.0 mix is a bit lacking in dynamic range, with the low-end sounding weak and the highs a bit harsh. Surrounds are mostly silent, but they do provide some unexpected support in a few crowd scenes. Dialogue is always clear, but at times with apparent ADR. The front soundstage is fairly narrow, with limited separation, but again, considering the age of the film and the fact that it is a dialogue-based comedy, UHF sounds just fine.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
20 Deleted Scenes
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Jay Levy, star and co-writer "Weird Al" Yankovic, stars Michael Richards, Emo Phillips, and Victoria Jackson
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. "Weird Al" music video, UHF
  2. Production Stills
  3. Promotional Gallery
  4. Easter Eggs
Extras Review: MGM has done a great job with their DVD output of late, and they seem especially willing to commit to special editions of cult films (see Killer Klowns from Outer Space). UHF was obviously produced with the fans in mind and with a lot of input from Al Yankovic himself.

The extras are spread over both sides of the DVD. Both the widescreen and full-screen sides include a lively audio commentary from Al Yankovic and director Jay Levy. Levy doesn't talk a whole lot, but Yankovic has clearly prepared extensive notes about the making of the film. He is consistently entertaining and self-deprecating, and certainly willing to make fun of his film and its lack of box-office success (he even reads some excerpts from negative reviews the film received, include a particularly harsh one from Roger Ebert, where he basically calls anyone who would find UHF funny a moron). Make sure to listen all the way through, as guests are wont to pop up. Emo Phillips contributes a few surreal comments during his scenes, and late in the picture Michael Richards sits down to offer some very funny comments about his character. During the credits, Yankovic even calls a giddy Victoria Jackson.

Exclusive to the full-screen side is the deleted scenes reel, which runs 20 minutes. Yankovic introduces and provides humorous commentary for many of the segments. None of the footage is particularly good, but it is interesting to see the different subplots that had to be cut, and Yankovic's comments are priceless.

The rest of the extras are housed on the widescreen side (but click on the menu selections that read "feature on other side" for a funny Easter Egg). A promotional EPK runs about four minutes and features some tongue-in-cheek comments from Yankovic, who seems to be parodying the vapidity of most of these "making of" bits (at one point he comments, when asked to describe the film, "Well, basically the movie is a series of rapidly projected still images which, when illuminated in the proper order, create the illusion of motion.")

Yankovic's music video of the UHF theme is included, a clever parody of several different 1980s MTV stars including Billy Idol and Prince. A production stills gallery offers a ton of on-the-set shots, a few of which show scenes deleted from the movie. Under the Promotional Materials heading are two theatrical trailers and a cool gallery of promotional materials, including original theatrical posters and the box art for the various VHS and Laserdisc incarnations of the film.

Finally, just for fun, you can hunt down a few nifty Easter Eggs. On the main menu, select the right TV knob for Al's introduction to the film. On the audio selection menu, select the fish by clicking left from "French 2.0" for a clip of Michael Richards improvising. Finally, on the extras menu, click left from the commentary selection to highlight the "watch for falling rocks" sign to once again treat yourself to a clip of Michael Richards acting goofy.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

UHF is a cult 1980s comedy, which means many people love it with an inexplicable and fiery passion, while everyone else wonders what is wrong with them. I, for one, was greatly amused. This is one movie that deserves its cult status. MGM has done a fantastic job with the DVD, and at only $14.95, it's a real bargain, too.

 


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