Saturday, December 19, 2015

There's Some Weird Stuff Further Up The Dial

Saturday post to compensate for the lack of a post on Monday! At the same time I picked up John Wick, I also found a copy of UHF. The movie Weird Al made back in the '80s, that Roger Ebert notably gave zero stars. I heard of it originally through the "Behind the Music" episode on Al, where he said he was pretty sure Ebert thought he was the Anti-Christ. I mean, even the second Charlie's Angels movie got a half star. I got to see it some time later, but I'd mostly forgotten about it until I bought the 2-disc Essential Weird Al collection last year, which has the film's theme song. Then I wanted to see it again, so here we are.

Besides, Ebert's taste in comedies always was garbage. He said Tommy Boy had no memorable lines, which, well, did you eat a lot of paint chips as a kid?

Which isn't to say UHF is a great movie by any stretch. It's story is roughly the standard one about the oddball that feels his talents are unappreciated, who finally finds a chance to shine. In this case, it's Al as George Newman, getting the chance to run a crappy local TV station, and turning it into a massive success with hit shows like "Wheel of Fish", and "Druids on Parade". There's a national affiliate that tries to crush the station through underhanded means, leading to the desperate attempt to save the station, for the community. I wasn't ever real clear on how Channel 62 was serving the community exactly, but sure, why not?

Mostly, though, I think the plot's there as sort of a loose connective tissue between skits almost. There's George's dream to open the film, which is just the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark, or the one that turns into his "Beverly Hillbillies" music video (which I like, so that's fine), or the Rambo sequence. At times, it almost feels like the whole film is a montage, that we're just seeing small excerpts of what's going on, to give us a general idea. In the deleted scenes section, Al explains all these scenes were cut because they're crap, like one of him and Victoria Jackson (playing George's girlfriend, Teri) having a romantic dinner. As he puts it, "Would you really want to see me do a love scene?" Actually, kind of? For novelty purposes alone, if nothing else. I think if it wasn't an attempt to be funny, he didn't want to bother with it, but sometimes you need the not funny stuff for the purposes of story. I did laugh a lot at the Rambo sequence, between Al mugging for the camera, with expressions I could really see Stallone making, and the blowing up of random monuments, just because. Leaving out the subplot about the one goon being afraid of bugs was probably the right move, though.

I may be grading this on the wrong scale. There were times I thought a scene would have been more effective if Al had pulled back a little on his reaction to some crushing news. But it's not like he's Robert Redford, trying for some subtle, nuanced portrayal of a man struggling to find his place in the world. He's trying for laughs with comical over-exaggeration. Taken on the merits I think it's trying for, it's not bad. I've seen worse movies of that type, and there was a lot in there I liked. I thought George and Teri were surprisingly believable as friends, if not necessarily as a couple. Michael Richards as Stanley was about as bizarre as I vaguely remembered. The guy playing R.J. Hunter, the evil national affiliate station owner was chewing that scenery like a pro. Very good portrayal of Evil '80s Businessman, right up there with Dick Jones from Robocop. I'd forgotten Fran Drescher was in there, she didn't get to do a whole lot - Richards' character kind of dominates the second half of the movie - but she does well with what she gets to do, mostly being indignant or sniping at assholes. I can appreciate that.

My coworkers were doing a Star Wars rewatch, and so they were watching The Empire Strikes Back. I'm comfortable with my choice.


SallyP said...

I would so want to watch Druids on Parade.

CalvinPitt said...

I don't even know what that would look like, really, but yeah, for novelty factor alone.