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Overall Rating
3.49

Awesome30.26%
Worth A Look: 19.74%
Average: 28.95%
Pretty Bad: 10.53%
Total Crap: 10.53%

8 reviews, 28 user ratings



Prairie Home Companion, A
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by brianorndorf

"The latest Robert Altman sleeping pill"
2 stars

Robert Altman is on autopilot with “Prairie Home Companion,” a mild look at the last show of the legendary radio program. To counteract the film’s sleepy vibe, writer/star Garrison Keillor has punched up the script with strange dramatic asides involving death, angels, and Tommy Lee Jones in a needless cameo. The whole concoction lacks the charm of the show it’s named after.

It’s the last show for radio mainstay “A Prairie Home Companion,” soon to lose its St. Paul home to a corporation looking to build a parking lot in its place. Lorded over by creator Garrison Keillor, the cast (including Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Woody Harrelson, and John C. Reilly) scurry to suppress their bubbling emotions and go out with a bang. But backstage, security chief Guy Noir (Kevin Kline, doing a terrible Jerry Lewis impression) tails a mysterious angel (Virginia Madsen) while weaving through the chaotic happenings involving life and death as the show prepares to take a final bow.

“A Prairie Home Companion” has been a weekend radio tradition for decades now, inviting hordes of the faithful to tune in every week to hear the latest story from Lake Wobegon and delight in a song or two. It’s a powerhouse of love for old time radio traditions, and has managed to keep its place in the hearts of listeners as the years slowly tick by – no small accomplishment. It’s about as uncorrupted Americana as it gets these days.

For reasons undisclosed and quite baffling, creator Garrison Keillor has brought his troupe of radio musicians and comedians to the silver screen with all the critical Minnesota lake cabin allure smoothed out by director Robert Altman (with assistance from Paul Thomas Anderson). To a certain degree, Altman is a great choice; the filmmaker’s legendary wandering camera is again employed in “Companion” to encapsulate the disorder of the final show, the backstage neglect, and to mimic the program’s festive, seemingly improvisational structure. Altman fans won’t be disappointed with the visual familiarity of the project.

Altman is hardly pushing himself with this production; his aging years put to great use capturing a show that relies almost solely on a gentle pace and even-tempered Minnesotan gusto. Coming off his last theatrical insider effort, 2003’s solid “The Company,” Altman’s ease with behind the scenes misbehavior and bittersweet goodbyes is assured, and he’s careful to let Keillor’s screenplay do all the walking. Altman has made an entire career of standing back and leisurely observing drama; however, “Companion” seems to be a picture that needed more directorial oomph than what this veteran is capable of.

To combat the demystifying stale air of radio on the screen, Keillor has taken the core elements of “Companion” and decided to juggle them around to keep the audience on their toes. Fans of the show will be taken aback at the lack of a Wobegon mention, along with other changes to the fringes of the program. To steer the movie away from becoming a simplistic performance film, Keillor has written bizarre subplots to divert attention away from the stage action and to fatten up the drama so there’s something for the cast to play with.

Asides with an angel that stalks the background of the show, the investigative prowess of Guy Noir, and the corporate axe man (Tommy Lee Jones, doing absolutely nothing here) sent to close the building have been written and directed in such a way that they bleed profundity without much effort. These scenes also lack the necessary weight they were intended to hold.

In fact, these disagreeable and esoteric asides manage to suffocate the mood of the show when Altman cuts back to them, leaving gaps in the jubilant atmosphere that “Companion” traditionally provides to its listeners. In an effort to distinguish his product for this big screen affair, Keillor has managed to tamper with his homegrown formula in ways that will put the casual viewer to sleep and perhaps confuse his fervent fanbase to a point of complete disinterest.

What Altman and Keillor positively nail is the cheery thrill of radio performance, and they’ve brought in a game cast to get the job done. Presided over by Keillor, with his golden-throated mediations on Minnesota life and wacky commercial breaks, Altman finds perfection in Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin as a sister singing duo consumed with family history (including daughter Lindsay Lohan).

The two actresses are, against all odds, evenly matched, and they dig into the musical sequences with a joy and confident spirit that the rest of this trying film could’ve used a lot more of.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=13721&reviewer=404
originally posted: 06/09/06 14:28:02
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival For more in the 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 San Francisco Film Festival For more in the 2006 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2006 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/27/16 FireWithFire Altman's swan song. As badly made as every Altman film before it 1 stars
8/23/14 PAUL SHORTT GOOD-NATURED AND WELL MADE 4 stars
6/10/08 CzarChasm Not at ALL what I expected -- FFd thru the DVD for the most part. 2 stars
3/03/08 ladavies this should have been so much better 3 stars
10/10/07 mr.mike surprisingly entertaining 4 stars
8/05/07 ravenmad i fell aslepp twice, no three times. didn't care to catch the tail end. Sorry. 1 stars
5/03/07 David Pollastrini Lindsay Lohan looked hot in this! 3 stars
3/11/07 Ryan_A Actually quite charming, if minda meandering. Cast is marvelous (even La Lohan) 4 stars
12/20/06 Monday Morning Like every other Altman film, virtually unwatchable. 2 stars
12/05/06 Travis A really nice, fun movie 4 stars
12/03/06 colichops one person's "gossamer construction" is another person's "so what?". 1 stars
11/30/06 bubba This movie sucks, Altman totally screwed up a good idea. Why did they use actors? 1 stars
11/10/06 nora If you know and love the radio show- it's great fun- if not- don't bother- it will make no 4 stars
11/02/06 KAREN MATLOCK People who don't listen to the radio show won't like it. I loved it! 5 stars
10/27/06 Tiffany Losco I actually liked this one. 4 stars
10/25/06 Vikki boring, disapointing and pointless! 1 stars
10/23/06 Judy I loved the songs and jokes, but didn't care much for the story. 3 stars
10/15/06 William Goss Like a grin, with comedic high points connected by large troughs of boredom. 3 stars
10/05/06 Helen Bradley Boring boring boring 1 stars
8/17/06 Pn. Too spooky if Altman were to die and this was his last film... 5 stars
7/27/06 Anna Orith Very sweet and occasionally aching funny 4 stars
6/25/06 anne papke made me feel so comfortable, like I was right in the radio audience 5 stars
6/18/06 John Dooley A lovely, touching, beautiful movie. Great cast, everyone, including Marylouise Burke. 5 stars
6/17/06 Christina Did a middle schooler write this? What a disappointment. 1 stars
6/15/06 Billy go outside 1 stars
6/12/06 Dani Such a warm, spirited movie. Bravo! 5 stars
6/12/06 t stewart Very funny moments, ad hoc music video style 4 stars
6/11/06 San Lamar i liked it, great performances by great actors 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  09-Jun-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 10-Oct-2006

UK
  N/A

Australia
  05-Oct-2006




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