As a maker of musical parodies, "Weird" Al Yankovic has an unimpeachable track record, from 1979's Knack spoof "My Bologna" to 1996's foray into the world of gangsta rappers, "Amish Paradise." As a movie star, well, that's another story. Yankovic never made a film before 1989's UHF, and there probably isn't a studio around that is foolish enough to let him make another one. UHF was so horribly panned by critics and ignored by audiences that its premiere should have been held at a Blockbuster Video store. The film closed before it opened, and so did Yankovic's career on the big screen.
Surprisingly, UHF became something of a cult hit on cable television, mostly because of Yankovic's then-unknown co-stars: Michael Richards (Seinfeld's hipster doofus, Kramer) and the annoyingly nasal Fran Drescher. But some of the credit for the film's newfound appeal should go to Yankovic. He is by no means an accomplished actor, but the jokes he scripted (along with co-writer and director Jay Levey) are as laugh-out-loud funny as his song parodies. The film, which also stars Saturday Night Live alum Victoria Jackson and legendary little actor Billy Barty, is basically a string of satirical sketches based loosely around the premise that Yankovic is the manager of a failing television station, which allows Yankovic to do such things as lampoon "insane" used car salesmen. ("If nobody comes down here and buys a car in the next hour, I'm gonna club this baby seal. That's right. I'm gonna club this seal to make a better deal. You know I'll do it too, cause I'm crazy.")
The plot is so obvious, it could have been written by a kindergartner--or Joe Eszterhas--but that's beside the point. As in the Zucker brothers' films (such as the Airplane! series), UHF's plot is secondary to the satire. Yankovic's spoofs have aged remarkably well; almost a decade later, UHF is still more entertaining than some of the more recent parody comedies, such as Mafia and Leslie Nielsen's Spy Hard. The film isn't brilliant, but it's worth seeing, if only to see whether that baby seal gets clubbed.
UHF plays at the Granada Movie Grill, located at 3524 Greenville Avenue, on Friday and Saturday at midnight. Tickets are $2. Call (214) 823-9610.