A Prairie Home Companion (2006)
A Prairie Home Companion (2006)

Genre: Dramatic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.

Release Date: June 9th, 2006 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Robert Altman Actors: Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, Virginia Madsen, Maya Rudolph, Garrison Keillor

 


 

U

nsurprisingly, “A Prairie Home Companion” contains not even the faintest trace of a plot. Also, be sure not to look for worthwhile character development, engaging conflicts, or satisfactory resolutions. Garrison Keillor, Kevin Kline, Meryl Streep, L.Q. Jones, Maya Rudolph, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly, and many more compose the cast of talented singers and musicians who perform as the troupe of a long-running, live radio show, playing out its final broadcast – due to the changing times and the necessity for the nostalgic theater to be turned into a parking lot. The program has outstayed its welcome, and the ensemble knows it. During the course of about two hours, the characters reminisce about how they all ended up in the industry, how they met one another, their past and present relationships with a wide assortment of people, and all kinds of other dreary topics – as they take turns going onstage and singing for a packed crowd.

During the bustling about of backstage life, one of the older singers dies (probably from remorse at having to participate in this project); an angel (Virginia Madsen), who is ironically credited as “a dangerous woman,” visits the set; and the axe-man (Tommy Lee Jones), destined to see the end of the show, arrives to seal the deal. Every event is orchestrated and intended to be humorous or meaningful, but comes across shockingly uninteresting and all but insensate. Viewers will find it easy to despise a fraction of the characters and forget the remainder altogether. A few good jokes and witty dialogue speckle the bleak happenings, providing the only – painfully brief – respite from total tedium.

The movie is intelligently written, though that fact can’t stop the end result from being phenomenally boring. Kevin Kline plays one of the few roles that is marginally enjoyable, providing much of the predictable yet gratifying comic relief, while Meryl Streep has little to do but attempt to sing. Garrison Keillor portrays himself, while Lily Tomlin is unusually abrasive as a maudlin gasbag. Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly are also mildly amusing, though one would have to be a diehard fan to see this movie just for them. And, of course, Lindsay Lohan is cute and talented, except that here she seems convinced that she can’t act or sing.

The film is basically structured to allow the noteworthy cast to be recognized individually for their lesser-known singing talents (or, in some cases, their lesser-known acting talents). And fans of the original radio show can spark a bit of nostalgia. As it’s directed by Robert Altman, a filmmaker who previously exhibited his love for country music and celebrity drama in “Nashville,” it’s not much of a stretch to see the direction this artsy annoyance is going long before it gets there.

Sadly, like so many other movies based on subjects that are not readily appealing to all audiences, this film does nothing for viewers who are not completely familiar with the source material. Most of the jokes, expressions, and segments are only notable as recreations of – or tributes to – designs and sounds and the layout of the show that ran, under various names, in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Even if audiences can overlook all of the sentimentality hanging over the production to decipher the dull metaphor for the cycle of life (or that tragic, unkind arc of show business), “A Prairie Home Companion” is still monotonous at best.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10