A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION
AN UNFORTUNATE THUMBS DOWN FILM REVIEW RATING!
Having been familiar with Garrison Keillor’s A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION radio series for many, many years now, I went into the theater to watch this flick with great expectations. Not only was Garrison going to be IN the film, but he’d also written the screenplay. What more could us fans want?
Perhaps my expectations were too high ...
Now I LOVE listening to the radio. I enjoy stories being told to me — Lake Woebegon is one of my favorite montages — and I like the way Mr. Keillor’s tales tickle my funny bone. The fake sponsors (Duct Tape, Ketchup Advisory Board, Powder Milk Biscuits, etc.), imaginary characters ("Guy Noir, Private Eye") and general tomfoolery add a quaint quality to the listening experience that harkens back to radio-days gone by. But does this translate well to film?
It might have had the story been a close-up view of the actors, characters, or stories. Combining all three into a 105 minute film could be challenging for any director, and Robert Altman (GOSFORD PARK) gives it his best but unfortunately fails to deliver.
Not only was the movie slow to get going, it also held zero character development. We’re plopped into the middle of a cast of characters with very little knowledge as to how they got where they are or why (one of the cast, whom we know for maybe 120 seconds, dies but his demise held no impact because we don’t know enough about him to care). The fact that we view the radio show by watching its progression was only moderately entertaining and the only memorable moments were when "bad jokes" are being told by a couple of bristling cowpokes (Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly). Many of the characters come and go in mere minutes and we (the viewer) are never given the opportunity to get close to them. The exception to this was Kevin Kline who plays fictional-character-turned-real-life-detective, Guy Noir. His constant hand/finger injuries are quite funny and it is through his eyes that we see most of the action.
I would tell you what the story is about, but I don’t want to bore you. It just isn’t that interesting. And I HATE saying that! I’ll continue listening to A Prairie Home Companion on my local National Public Radio affiliate, but I won’t be watching this film again. Sorry Mr. Keillor.