Passing the Buck: UHF
There was a time in history when humanity believed in the little man. When the good guys were small organizations, with down and out protagonists rising to great heights in the span of 90 minutes. UHF, Weird Al's crazy cinematic romp is one such experience.
Somehow, UHF (Ultra High Frequency) had escaped my notice in the 90s, but recently my friend Jeremiah had inquired as to whether or not my seven-year-old daughter Fiona had seen it. Upon hearing that neither here nor I had experienced the film, he promptly sent us a Blu-ray copy. I had expected zaniness and irreverence, what I had not expected was to be moved by the film. Moved so deeply as to feel a great tug at my chest at the movie's climax.
UHF is not simply about a wash-up who's given a rundown TV station only to stumble upon heretofore overlooked talent. UHF is about community, more specifically, grassroots involvement in your community usurping the corporate jack-offs who want to run the world. In today's world, we could use a little more of that.
Woven within UHF's plot, which is silly and simple at its heart, are all kinds of lessons. My personal favorite, of course, being a more than subtle nod at feminism through Fran Drescher's character. Frustrated with her relegation to secretary, she demands work as an anchor. George Newman (Weird Al) is happy to oblige, but she meets bullying and resistance from male anchors out in the field. "Broads don't belong in broadcasting," one male anchor proclaims after knocking over her cameraman, Noodles. Fran, George and company keep fighting through the adversity they face.
Fiona was laughing from the beginning. UHF is host to a never-ending string of gags. Weird gags, classic gags, funny gags and surreal gags. And while some references were a bit dated for her, most of the humor landed right where it needed to. Her favorite moments were "Raul's Wild Kingdom." During which she turned to me, wide-eyed and said, "I want to be there!" Her second favorite being when the scientist, who was actually an alien, turned back into an alien at the end of the movie. Not many kids films today have the audacity to be so zany.
The most beautiful takeaway from this film, in my opinion, is that George and his crew win the day because they give people who were previously treated like dirt (women, janitors, minorities) a voice. In the end, an old man saves the day with a penny, and the hubris of the villainous character loses him the prize. That's the kind of message we should be sending to our kids now more than ever. The humor may be their biggest take away from the film, but that humor engages them in a message of positivity and hope. I cannot recommend this movie enough to parents. Not only is it a fun trip down memory lane, but it's one your children won't resist. The Buck family gives UHF a 10/10 for family movie night and Fiona says, "smoky boots!"