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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Weird Al Yankovic Double-Shot

January 5th, 2015

The Compleat Al - Buy from Amazon: DVD
UHF - Buy from Amazon: Blu-ray

Something weird has happened. I have nothing to review. This is partially due to the holidays and I suspect next week will be busier. However, in the meantime I didn't want to have nothing to review this week, so I thought I would do a Weird Al Yankovic double-shot, as two of his films had new home market releases recently. The first of these is...

The Compleat Al

The Compleat Al is a mockumentary about Weird Al Yankovic that first came out on VHS in 1985. It is a mixture of truths and jokes, starting right with the anti-piracy warning. I know some of the facts are correct, like the reason why Weird Al chose to study architecture. I know some of the "facts" are total fabrications, like the segment on his lost album. However, there's a sea of gray in the middle.

The film begins with Weird Al's childhood and how he got an accordion for his seventh birthday. We also learn that he and his family spent many evenings watching TV, which is a segue to "Ricky", a parody of "Mickey", by Toni Basil. We hear more about Weird Al's adolescence, including his job at the ice cream parlor, which is another segue, this time to "I Love Rocky Road". I really hope I don't need to tell you what the original song is.

It is at this point, we switch to Weird Al's career and some of the true early moments, and a lot of lies involving his fictitious manager, Barry Cohen, or Weird Al getting permission from Michael Jackson for "Eat It", which is the next music video we see. Shortly after that, we hear "Midnight Star" while we see his hotel room prepared for him. After a short bit about Al's obsessed fans, we see the music video for "I Lost on Jeopardy", parody of "Jeopardy" by The Greg Kihn Band. You could be forgiven for not remembering them.

Afterwards, the film takes a bizarre turn as Weird Al travels to Japan for a tour and when he returns, he takes over MTV for AL TV. There's plenty of jokes, but also several music videos, including "This is the Life", which is an original song, and Harvey Leeds singing "State of Shock". ... I just realized I've seen this movie more than a dozen times and I've never heard the original by Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger. One second. I'll see if it is on YouTube. ... I like Harvey Leeds' version better. The plot takes a turn for the strange, but we are quickly given "Like a Surgeon", "One More Minute", and "Dare to be Stupid". After a personal message from Weird Al, the masterpiece that is The Compleat Al is over.

The Compleat Al is hard to review, because it is a mixture of humor and music videos. It is just over 100 minutes long, including opening and closing credits, and that includes 8 music videos, plus the two other songs. If you like Weird Al Yankovic's music, then this alone makes the DVD worth owning. Most of the jokes in the other sections are great and the ones that fail to reach their mark are over soon enough. The movie doesn't have very good cohesion, as it bounces all over the place without much connective tissue, so to speak. So, if you are looking for a more traditional documentary, you will be probably disappointed. On the other hand, if you are a long time fan, or a new fan interested in some of his earlier work, then this is worth picking up.

The Extras

The only downside is the extras. There are none. The DVD does come with two trailers, so I guess that's better than nothing.


UHF is a more traditional movie, especially compared to The Compleat Al. Weird Al Yankovic stars as George Newman, whom we first meet in a daydream where he thinks he's Indiana Jones. As a result of this daydreaming, he and his friend, Bob, are fired, yet again. This is also the reason he gets into a fight with his girlfriend, Teri. Teri thinks George isn't serious about, well, life and wants him to settle down and get a real job.

George does get a break when he visits his Aunt and Uncle. His uncle Harvey just won a UHF station, UHF 62, in a poker game and while he was going to dump it, Aunt Esther convinces him to let George run it. When George and Teri check it out, at night, which is when they meet Philo, the TV station's technician. The next day, George and Bob head to the station and meet the secretary, Pamela Finklestein, who is actually an aspiring news reporter. Later, a package arrives at the station, a package that was supposed to go to R.J. Fletcher, the owner of the Channel 8, the network affiliate. George decides to return the package personally, as a chance to get to know the competition. That turns out to be a mistake, as R.J. is a nasty individual. We see him fire Stanley Spadowski, the janitor, for a mistake he made himself. He also threatens to have George arrested for stealing his mail, even though George was returning it as a favor.

As George is hastily leaving Channel 8, he sees Stanley being kicked out of the building and George offers him a job. This turns out to be a very wise decision, because despite George's attempts, UHF 62 is going under. It isn't until George offhandedly gives Stanley the hosting duties of a kids show that the network begins to find an audience. In fact, Stanley's Clubhouse becomes such a huge hit that UHF 62 beats Channel 8 in the ratings. This gives George a lot more money to try new shows, but it also means R.J. Fletcher will stop at nothing to get rid of them.

UHF is at its best when the plot isn't getting in the way of the jokes. It sounds like a strange thing to say about a movie, but it's true. Weird Al Yankovic is at his best here when he's allowed to make extended parodies of movies, like with Indiana Jones or later on with Rambo. There are also many funny commercial parodies, from Spatula City to Crazy Earl's Car Lot to Plots R Us, that really show case Weird Al's sense of humor. And of course, there's the music video for "Beverly Hillbillies". On the downside, the plot is rather pedestrian and there's not a lot here that's unique. The more it takes center stage, the less energy the film has. Fortunately, that's not a huge problem and fans of Weird Al will find more than enough to enjoy here.

The Extras

Most of the extras are from the 2002 DVD release, including an audio commentary track, behind-the-scenes, deleted scenes, and a music video. The audio commentary track includes Weird Al Yankovic and Jay Levey, as well as some guests. They are realistic about the problems with the movie and and do point out some mistakes and problems with the budget / shooting schedule. The deleted scenes are hosted by Weird Al and he's even more self-deprecating here than in the audio commentary track.

New to Blu-ray is a 51-minute long Comic Con panel with Weird Al Yankovic talking about his career. There were a number of Easter Eggs on the DVD that are not on the Blu-ray.

The technical presentation is good, all things considered. UHF cost just $5 million to make 25 years ago and it failed to find an audience in theaters. The video has quite a bit of grain, the colors are not always as vibrant as they should be, while there's more than a few signs of print damage. It does look better than it did on DVD, which is a plus, but clearly there wasn't a budget to clean up the print. On the plus side, there's no sign of digital manipulation and there are no compression issues either. The audio is a 2.0 stereo track. The audio is clear and there are no technical issues, but it's a 2.0 stereo track, so there's also no activity in the surround sound speakers.

The Verdict

Both the The Compleat Al DVD and the UHF Blu-ray are worth picking up for fans of Weird Al Yankovic. If I were forced to pick just one, I would go with The Compleat Al, because it hasn't been widely available for so long.

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Filed under: Video Review, UHF, The Compleat Al, Rambo, Indiana Jones, Fran Drescher, Michael Jackson, Victoria Jackson, Mick Jagger, Kevin McCarthy, Michael Richards, Weird Al Yankovic, David Bowe, Jay Levey, Anthony Geary