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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

A Prairie Home Companion (review)

The gentle satire of Garrison Keillor’s beloved radio variety show gets an extra kick of self-reflective snark in Robert Altman’s (The Company) pleasantly meandering tribute/reimagining. Part concert film, part valentine to life in the theater, and twisty in the most delightful way, it posits a pretend radio show called “A Prairie Home Companion” hosted by a guy named “Garrison Keillor” (played by a wonderfully deadpan Keillor) that is celebrating its final show, if ignoring its imminent demise can be said to constitute a “celebration.” Meryl Streep (Prime) and Lily Tomlin (Disney’s The Kid) bring more laid-back, unflappable Midwesternness to their singing duo, The Johnson Sisters, a real group here portrayed in a fictional way; PHC fictional character Guy Noir, a detective lost in the 1940s as well as in his own head, is portrayed as “real” — and with a charming goofiness — by Kevin Kline (The Pink Panther). It’s all the sweetest, funniest, yep-you-betcha nicest kind of postmodern self-referential-ism, full of toe-tapping music — all of which was recorded live by the cast; no stunt voices here — smart humor, and a healthy dollop of poignancy. It’s a brisk blast of fresh Minnesota air amidst all those summer blockbusters blowing stuff up.

See also:
‘A Prairie Home Companion’: chatting with Garrison Keillor
‘A Prairie Home Companion’: chatting with Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin
‘A Prairie Home Companion’: chatting with Kevin Kline and Virginia Madsen

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MPAA: rated PG-13 for risque humor

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

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