I have to admit that this was a difficult review to write. I am a huge Garrison Keillor fan and I’m a big Prairie Home Companion fan. Yet I think the movie version, just missed.
The film has an all-star cast. Kevin Kline, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Wood Harrelson, John C. Reilly, Tommy Lee Jones, Lindsey Lohan and of course Garrison Keillor. In no place in the movie is the acting weak, everyone plays their roles extremely well. The music was excellent, the flow of the movie great, but two issues I think prevented it from being a great movie.
The first issue was plot. Or more correctly the lack of one. The premise of the movie is that this is the last show of a long running Midwestern radio variety show. The small station it has been running on has been bought by a big time company who plan on quickly pulling the plug. The movie focuses on how this show was all the characters lives, to them it was more than just a show or a job. An angel wanders around the set during the performance telling everyone everything will be OK. But despite the fine acting, there was little time for character building and as a result the viewer remains emotionally distant from the characters. Yes the show is closing, but some how we don’t really care. Plus there is no connection with that final audience in the theatre. They might as well have been recording it in a cave or cow pasture. However, the two cowboys (played by Harrelson and Reilly) provide great comic relief through out the film and are in my opinion the highlights of the movie.
My second gripe is the lack of uninspiring sets and filming. This movie had the feel of a PBS special, great for a radio program that’s also being filmed, but not so hot for a movie. The sets while interesting, did little to add the visual effects.
If you are looking for a movie with great acting, writing and music or are already a fan of the Prairie Home Companion, than you will find this movie enjoyable. If you are looking to be entertained or don’t like Midwestern variety radio programs, you will likely find this movie quite boring.