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A daydreaming born loser named George Newman (‘Weird Al’ Yankovic) is assigned as the manager of a failing UHF television station by his gambling addict uncle Harvey Bilchik (Stanley Brock), who wins it in a game of poker. Against all odds, George saves Channel 62 from obscurity when he lets his friends take over programming. But the station’s success draws the attention of a local network station owned by the ruthless R.J. Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy), who hatches a plan to destroy them.

 UHF: 25th Anniversary Edition
I am always hesitant to revisit comedies I enjoyed as a child, because, like everyone else, my sense of humour has changed significantly over the decades. I am especially hesitant of revisiting movies that exist specifically to spoof pop culture, even the supposedly classic ones. I don’t really have any patience for irrelevant references and don’t get a lot out of the specific brand of nostalgia that entails a lot of giggling at antiquated culture. UHF, which was directed (and co-written) by Jay Levey, but, for all intents and purposes should probably be referred to as ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic’s UHF, seemingly fits this mould, but there are exceptions to every rule. In fact, Weird Al’s (né Alfred Matthew Yankovic) endearing and enduring existence is a constant reminder that I shouldn’t claim a blanket (probably snobby) hatred of silly, single concept spoofs. Without reinventing his persona (Coke-bottle glasses and frizzy hair, aside), he has grown with the music industry and remained shockingly relevant over a period of more than three decades. That’s significantly longer than most of the ‘real’ musical acts he satires.

At the time, UHF sort of felt like Weird Al’s magnum opus and the culmination of his career. It’s like a hyperactive, feature-length obituary following the death of his well-spent 15 minutes of fame. Little did we know, he was just getting started. The ‘greatest hits package’ mentality and aforementioned pop culture satire does grow pretty stale in retrospect. Due to this patchy structure, UHF never quite achieves the status of ‘real movie’ and is an intermittently frustrating experience. But Weird Al’s unique comedic sensibilities squeeze through the fray and the tonal qualities end up out-weighing the lack of consistency. Aside from some TV specials/documentaries, Jay Levey seems to exist exclusively to bring Weird Al’s satirical visions to life via music videos and concert specials. I’m actually not sure that he otherwise exists and may just be a figment of Yankovic’s imagination or a manifestation of his will (in reality, Levey is the manager that discovered Weird Al). Levey’s direction is strictly no frills, but he gets the job done and, as always, implements the will of his master/friend/client.

 UHF: 25th Anniversary Edition
Similar to a feature-length Muppet adventure or the Wayne’s World movies (both of which share a number of narrative commonalities), UHF succeeds via likable characters and a proper context for most of the direct parodies. The context doesn’t always work. The Dire Straits music video dream sequence (‘Beverly Hillbillies’) is clumsy and, like the Rambo: First Blood Part II spoof in particular, slows the taut momentum, while the quick references and spit-fire in-jokes (‘We don’t need no stinkin’ badgers!’) actually fit the frantic pace, even when they aren’t funny. Weird Al and Levey’s obvious reverence for the artists/entertainers/properties they satire, along with the sweet-natured portrayals and sentimental message, keeps cynicism at bay, while the sometimes violent slapstick and shrill, teeth-gritting insults ensure that the film doesn’t tumble into Disney-levels of cloying placation. The balancing act is not always successful (almost everything involving Gedde Watanabe is atypically crude and racist in retrospect), but the movie’s big heart and unique sensibilities help knit together an indomitably entertaining little movie. Even the dead dog jokes are cute.

 UHF: 25th Anniversary Edition

Video


UHF makes its Blu-ray debut via the nostalgia merchants at Shout Factory and is presented in 1080p, 1.85:1 HD video. I believe it’s another straight-from-MGM scan, meaning that it is basically an uncompressed version of the anamorphic DVD. This may sound like I’m setting expectations particularly low, but not everything needs to be completely remastered and, in fact, I’m pleasantly surprised with the sharp details, strong contrast levels, and vibrant colours. Levey and cinematographer David Lewis shoot relatively flat, uncomplicated compositions whenever they aren’t mimicking the styles of Steven Spielberg, George P. Cosmatos, or whoever. Their simple, wide-angle images rarely include close-up textures, but the complicated patterns and overlapping elements are crisply separated. What they lack in theatrical framing and compositions, Levey and Lewis often make-up for with cartoonish lighting and elaborately colourful costumes/sets.  Grain levels are a smidge uneven and cake up a bit in the corners of the frame. Problems apply most consistently to the composite shots and other special effects images. The print damage is limited to a few flecks here and there and a handful of ‘pulsy’ sequences that don’t quite fit the overall quality of the rest of the image (most of the scenes that take place in R.J. Fletcher’s office, for example). Compression artefacts are a non-issue (besides the scenes that purposefully recreate the look of tube television), though the occasionally harsh contrast levels do crush some blacks and create minor edge haloes. The 1.85:1 framing is theatrically accurate, but really too tight for most of the compositions. Headroom is consistently chopped during dialogue-heavy sequences (1.78:1 or 1.66:1 probably would’ve worked better).

Audio


UHF is presented in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio sound and its original 2.0 stereo surround. There isn’t an excess of directional enhancement – the fake commercials, revamped scenes from other movies, and musical sequences are almost always the loudest and liveliest – but, even without a discrete center channel, the dialogue and basic effects rest pleasantly in the middle of the soundscape. Given Yankovic’s day job, music obviously plays a key role in the film and is the 2.0 track’s biggest aural element, especially the Dire Straits spoof, which features all the punchy drum noise, stereo enhancement, and throbbing bass one would expect from a rock number. John Du Prez’ electronic score stands in well enough for the symphonic scores it mimics and is plenty poppy, despite not making too many appearances.

 UHF: 25th Anniversary Edition

Extras


  • Audio Commentary with Weird Al, co-writer/director Jay Levey, and actors Victoria Jackson, Emo Philips, and Michael Richards– This track originally accompanied MGM’s special edition and was, fortunately, recorded before Jackson or Richards had their very public breakdowns. The actors pop up for only a few words, anyway. Most of the track belongs to Weird Al (Levey plays sidekick), who makes plenty of jokes and complains about their lack of budget, but their comments are also quite informative.
  • Retrospective panel from the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con (51:10, HD) – The Blu-ray’s one big new extra features moderator Jonah Ray ( The Sarah Silverman Show, The Nerdist, The League) interviewing Yankovic, who also fields questions from the Comic-Con audience. Fifty-plus minutes might sound long, but the info is good and the laid-back tone is infectious.
  • Deleted scenes (19:10, SD)
  • Vintage behind-the-scenes EPK (3:40, SD)
  • Music video (4:30, SD)
  • Production stills
  • Promotional materials


 UHF: 25th Anniversary Edition

Overall


UHF hasn’t aged well, but I don’t think anyone expected it would. Co-writer/star Weird Al Yankovic’s unique charms and a number of memorable faux-commercials overcome inconsistent laughs and ultimately earn the film its enduring cult affections. Shout Factory’s Blu-ray looks and sounds about as good as can be expected from the materials and features a nice selection of extras, including a new retrospective panel discussion from the San Diego Comic-Con.

 UHF: 25th Anniversary Edition

UHF: 25th Anniversary Edition

Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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