Review: UHF-Undiscovered Treasure

The “Twinkie Weiner Sandwich” is the single most repulsive thing I have ever seen in my life.

UHF is a comedy starring “Weird” Al Yankovic that came out in 1989 that I had no idea existed until I was exposed to it through a Youtuber I happen to be a fan of (shoutouts to Brutalmoose). I became interested in it simply because I had no idea Weird Al had his own movie and it’s not every day you discover a movie starring an entertainment icon that has completely escaped you. I’ve always really liked Weird Al and his music and while he was never a constant source of entertainment in my life, truthfully I’m not a big music person, I always found myself enjoying the things I’ve heard and seen from him. I took my sweet ass time getting around to watching it (as I am one to do) and truth be told, I was shocked at how much I was enjoying myself. I thought UHF was a wonderfully executed movie filled with great jokes, fun characters, and a fun soundtrack and it left me one simple question. “Why is this movie not talked about more?” We’ll get into that a bit later but first, let’s talk about the plot of UHF.

Trust me this won’t take long.

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yaaaay. story.

The movie tells the story of George Newman (played by Big Al himself), a daydreamer that can’t keep a job to save his life. After getting both himself and his best friend David Bowie (seriously) fired from their current job and going through relationship problems with his girlfriend, he finds himself frustrated that he can’t find a job that utilizes his specific talents. This all changes when his uncle wins a failing public access station in a poker game and he gets chosen to run it. After failing initially to created captivating programming for his channel, he’s finally able to strike it big when his janitor Stanely Spadowski (played by Michael Richards) finds accidental success in running a children’s program. This catches the attention of a larger television station that doesn’t like the idea of them muscling in on their turf and guys you know exactly where this is going. They threaten to buy and destroy the station and the group of misfits have to figure out a way to save it. It’s a tale as old as time itself and it is nothing new. In my opinion, what carries UHF isn’t its narrative, it’s the characters that inhabit it and the wacky bullshit they encounter and pull off.

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You try coming up with a caption for this.

I haven’t laughed this hard at a movie in a long time. The way UHF frames and executes its jokes resonated with me simply because of how bizarre and at times anarchistic it can be. From George throwing a glass of water in Satan’s face to Gandhi II, there’s rarely a dull moment to be found in the film. UHF knows exactly what it is and it relishes in it. It’s loud, it’s fun, it’s crazy, and it’s wonderful. This is helped by the main cast of characters and how likable they all are, particularly Newman and Spadowski. George Newman is a very likable and relatable protagonist because he’s just a guy trying to find his way in the world. He’s unfocused, he screws up, but he means well all the same and he recognizes his faults and tries to grow as a person. He loves using his overactive imagination to create weird and entertainment shows for people to enjoy and he takes great pride in them. Spadowski, equally, is just as lovable for being his goofy, bumbling sidekick. He’s a complete and total dunce but he believes in George and treasures the friendship they share, wanting to help him every step of the way. For what UHF lacks in a unique narrative, it more than makes up for with heart and charm. With all of these strengths though, why isn’t this movie talked about more? Well, to be frank, the movie never stood a chance.

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Sometimes life isn’t fair.

UHF released on July 21st, 1989 with a budget of around $5 million while only bringing in $6.1 million. While that doesn’t technically make it a “failure” it is by no means a huge return and the critical reception certainly didn’t help, receiving mixed reviews, some even giving it 0-1 stars. It also didn’t help that the movie was released around the same time as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Ghostbusters II, and freaking Batman. How on EARTH was this movie supposed to succeed when it was going up against competition like that? This and given the struggling finances with their distributor, Orion Pictures, caused the company to shut down and it certainly didn’t do the movie that many favors. Weird Al himself said the failure of the movie affected him badly, throwing him into a 3 year-long slump that was only broken by the rise of Nirvana, and it giving him the inspiration for his hit song “Smells like Nirvana” (which you can read about here). Thankfully though the movie has since been reevaluated and has risen to cult status, even getting a 25th anniversary Blu-Ray released by Shout! Factory, but I still think the movie deserved more of a fighting chance than it got.

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Maybe in another life, you would have done better, king.

UHF is not a complex movie, but it is an entertaining one, one that deserves to be seen and talked about more. From its wonderful characters, hilarious sense of humor, and general tone I think this movie is up there with some of my favorite comedies of all time. While I wish it had a stronger story and was maybe a TAD longer, I still love it all the same. If you have the chance to watch this movie through VOD, Blu-Ray, or even by digital rental, you absolutely should. Just don’t try the Twinkie Weiner Sandwich. You WILL get sick and you WILL hate yourself.

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