Prairie Home Companion, A

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +4

Content: -1/2

FILM SNYOPSIS: Director Robert Altman (Nashville, The Player,) and radio humorist Garrison Keillor join forces with a superb cast to create a comic backstage fable, A Prairie Home Companion, about a fictitious radio variety show that has managed to survive in the age of television. Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin star as the Johnson Sisters, Yoland and Rhonda, a country duet act that has survived the county-fair circuit. Lindsay Lohan plays Meryls daughter, Lola, who gets her big chance to sing on the show and then forgets the words. Kevin Kline is Guy Noir, a bumbling private eye down on his luck who works as a backstage doorkeeper. And Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly are Dusty and Lefty, the Old Trailhands, a singing cowboy act. Add Virginia Madsen as an angel who roams the studio corridors, Tommy Lee Jones as the Axeman, who is closing the theater and ending the long-running show, and Keillor in the role of hangdog emcee, and you have a playful story set on a rainy Saturday night in St. Paul, Minnesota, where the fans file into the Fitzgerald Theater to see a staple of radio station WLT, not knowing that WLT has been sold to a Texas conglomerate and that tonights show will be the last. (Remember, its just a story. The radio show is not really being cancelled.)

PREVIEW REVIEW: I suppose it helps to be familiar with Garrison Keillors wit, which can be partially defined as reflective, guileless, cultural, and droll. Mr. Keillor is a combo of provincial raconteur and noble savage, a beguiling dispenser of wry homilies and casual empathy. His wisdom comfortably resides between the worlds of sophistication and non. Perhaps Im getting a bit heady by providing descriptives Mr. Keillor would no doubt find mockable. But for those unfamiliar with the builder of Lake Woebegon, I wanted to make it clear that his humor stems from other sources than those mined by the majority of todays comedians.

Keillors chronologic storytelling and his oddball characters console the listener/viewer, while slyly pointing a finger at our cultures mediocrity. That said, it is not necessary to be a weekly follower of public radios longest running program in order to appreciate this films ensemble and their poignant dramedy.

Eighty-one-year-old director Altmans free-flowing form is perfect for the intertwining of the different subplots, characterizations and motifs. And though Mr. Keillor, with that perfect face for radio, wisely takes a supporting position throughout the proceedings, his distinctive, off-the-wall persona is ever present. Like Mark Twain and Will Rogers, Keillor is a storyteller par excellence. Hes not just about getting the quick joke, but rather about creating a wistful world we not only get to visit, but hate leaving. Here he incorporates several touching, insightful moments concerning mortality.

Thats not to say that we are allowed to completely escape crudity or Christian bashing. One scene has an extended flatulence joke that was unnecessary and was included most likely to satisfy those who believe no comedy is complete without a good breaking wind joke. At one point the cowboy duo tell several crude jokes. Then one tale told by the Johnson songbird sisters has the siblings reflecting upon the unloving and overzealous nature of some Believers. But those are moments of exception in this charming salute to bygone radio days. Most of the humor stems from the conceptual mind of G.K. His erudite worldview springs from a fount most of us can only be in awe of. And tribute is paid to the soothing nature of gospel music. Theres even an angel who, among other duties, states clearly that her job is "praise His holy name."

I laughed and was moved. I enjoyed entering Garrison Keillors world, where all the men are good looking, the women are strong, and the children are above average.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: There are several crude potty jokes, wisecracks about ones posterior, flatulence rifts and a couple of sexual innuendos. One song contains a few off-color remarks and several unnecessary expletives. That said, this coarse humor is largely outnumbered by creative and insightful humor, balanced out with a touch of slapstick.

Obscene Language: Some may find a comic reference to Jesus objectionable. Referring to how long the show has run, a jokester states, Since Jesus was in the 3rd grade. 1 s-word, 1 bastard, 1 SOB, and 4 minor expletives (damns and hells)

Profanity: I caught no misuse of Gods name other than four uses of the expression oh my God.

Violence: There are a few slight slapstick routines, with Guy Noir catching his hand in drawers or tumbling over objects, but nothing excessive. An elderly man dies.

Sex: Some groping between an elderly couple in one scene. It is implied that they are having an affair, but nothing graphic is shown.

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: A few sexual innuendos and a couple of scenes feature the cowboy duo cracking sexual jokes. Around 10 in all.

Drugs: Guy Noir smokes or tries to as he attempts to roll his own cigarettes.

Other: An angst-ridden teenager is obsessed with death and suicide; this is played for laughs and later it is revealed that the girl does cherish life. An angel has been sent to take one of the cast members to the next dimension. Though this character is more fantasy than a true biblical representative, she is used as a metaphor, sometimes comically, sometimes poignantly.

Running Time: 105 minutes
Intended Audience: Older teens and adults

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