aka The Vidiot from U.H.F.
Director – Jay Levey, Screenplay – Jay Levey & Weird Al Yankovic, Producers – John Hyde & Gene Kirkwood, Photography – David Lewis, Music – John Du Prez, Visual Effects – Introvision (Supervisor – William Mesa), Clay Animation – Chiodo Brothers Productions, Special Effects Supervisor – Mike Menzel, Makeup Effects – KNB EFX, MME & Doug White, Production Design – Ward Preston. Production Company – Orion/Cinecorp/Imaginary Entertainment.
Weird Al Yankovic (George Newman), Michael Richards (Stanley Spadowski), Kevin McCarthy (R.J. Fletcher), David Bowe (Bob), Victoria Jackson (Teri), Anthony Geary (Philo), Fran Drescher (Pamela Finkelstein), Stanley Brock (Uncle Harvey Pilchik)
When George Newman is fired from yet another job, his uncle Harvey makes him the manager of the useless UHF tv station that he won in a poker game. George tries desperately to keep the station’s miserably failing shows on the air. It is not until he puts the weird janitor Stanley Spadowski on camera and Stanley’s bizarre muggings become a ratings hit that he is able to turn the station’s fortunes around. However, the station’s new success brings him to the attention of the ruthless network affiliate R.J. Fletcher who determines to take the station off air at all costs.
U.H.F. was the film debut of comedian Weird Al Yankovic. Since the 1970s, Yankovic has attained a certain fame with his musical/stand-up routines, which mostly centre around parodies of popular songs – Eat It, Like a Surgeon, Fat and Amish Paradise among numerous others. He has released numerous albums, even had a short-lived comedy tv series The Weird Al Show (1997) and later a biopic Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (2022) where he was played by Daniel Radcliffe.
U.H.F./The Vidiot from U.H.F. has its amusements, notably the zany parodies of ads and popular films – including send-ups of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – the Raiders opening sequence becomes a quest for an Oscar statuette – and Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), and trailers for fake films like Conan the Librarian and Gandhi II – “He’s Back and Really Pissed Off”.
However, these, which are explained away as the Weird Al Yankovic character’s daydreams, are not well integrated into the story. What plot there is is a simplistic triviality that is overlong and short on any real ideas. For Yankovic, who makes great mileage out of sending people up, his plot here seems to only to readily rely on cliche, being no more than an extremely naive simple but good-hearted good guys vs the ruthless corporate sharks plot.
Required to act rather than do extended stand-up or operate at a length beyond that of a music video, Yankovic seems to lack what it takes as a performer – opting for an almost simple-minded ingenuousness from which he seems to explode at random into shrieking histrionics and emotively overwrought double-takes. One who does engage somewhat is Michael Richards, sometime before his cult stardom on Seinfeld (1990-8), whose bizarre muggings prove vaguely engrossing. (Talking of pre-stardom, one can also see Fran Drescher, pre-The Nanny (1993-9), in a minor role as a secretary).
The film has enough zany gags popped away in it to prove occasionally affable but having to suffer the painfully simplistic and paper thin plot almost proves more than it is worth. The film is included here solely for the character of an eccentric electronics technician who at the end announces he is returning to his home planet then flies off in a ball of light.
Jay Levey has directed Weird Al Yankovic’s music videos since 1984. This has been his only feature film.