Services like Netflix and YouTube have made the most recent films readily available to anyone. Can we find anything of value in the muck of b-movies, ambitious failures and exploitative crap-fests? We’re going to find out in Dispatches from Instant View Purgatory.
What’re we watching: “UHF,” a 1989 slapstick/television satire/snobs vs. slobs stories written by and starring song parodist Weird Al Yankovic.
What does it look like: If Tex Avery and “Beetlejuice”-era Tim Burton would have smoked a lot of weed, watched a lot of ’70s action movies and read tons of comic books, their dream journals would have been the script for “UHF.”
What’s going on: Weird Al plays George, a schlubby, daydreaming loser who lands himself a job at his uncle’s failing TV station. He brings in his buddies and girlfriend and with the help of a spunky wannabe reporter played by Fran Drescher and a bumbling very goofy janitor played by pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards. They eventually come into contest with the local TV bigwig who wants to shut down their station.
Why haven’t we heard of this: “UHF” has a very small cult, but you pretty much have to love Weird Al to have heard about it. Also, it’s pretty heavily stuck in the ’80s.
What works: “UHF” is the epitome of the silly after-school movie. There’s tons of slapstick, really goofy word play, bizarre sight gags, Weird Al yelling a lot and a hysterical performance from Michael Richards. Even Fran Drescher is pretty tolerable here.
What doesn’t: Like I said, the movie is really dated, and Yankovic often doesn’t know the difference between a parody and a straight send-up. There’s a shot for shot “homage” to the “Close Encounters” mashed potato mountain with no jokes added. It’s just there. Also, the music video thrown in the middle is neither funny nor necessary. Strangely, the movie also has a fair amount of unnecessary Asian bashing. It’s really odd.
Skip to: Richards gleefully endangering children by having them drink from a fire-hose, a hysterical homage to “Rambo,” Yankovic feeding dog snacks to a man in a clown costume, a homeless man that gives people change for a dollar and the trailers for movies like “Conan the Librarian” and “Gandhi II: No More Mr. Passive Resistance” round out the highlights of a movie packed with them.
The Verdict: “UHF” is one of the funniest all ages movies made in the last 30 years. It’s the rare movie that’s funny even for those who don’t catch all the references and the whole thing has the very distinctive Weird Al flavor throughout. It’s a singularly wonderful, very personal, very funny story.
What’s coming up next: Join us next week when we check out “Cropsey,” a creepy 2009 documentary about a Staten Island urban legend and the truth behind the myths.