Combustible Celluloid
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With: Garrison Keillor, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Lindsay Lohan, Virginia Madsen, Maya Rudolph, John C. Reilly, Kevin Kline, Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Linda Williams, Robin Williams, Tim Russell, L.Q. Jones
Written by: Garrison Keillor
Directed by: Robert Altman
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for risque humor
Running Time: 105
Date: 02/12/2006

A Prairie Home Companion (2006)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Radio Daze

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

At first Robert Altman's new ensemble piece clocks in as an ungainly work like Pret-a-Porter (1994), but the director's dreamy pacing perfectly captures the radio show's comforting, Sunday afternoon nostalgia, and the film has a lovely autumnal feel that eventually overrides its flaws. Written by and starring radio veteran Garrison Keillor -- who truly has a face for radio -- the film depicts the last show in a long running series (big business has bought and is shutting down the old theater). Old-timey musicians perform various numbers while weird little dramas unfold backstage. In the movie's most misguided component, Kevin Kline plays private eye Guy Noir (usually portrayed on the air by Keillor) as a bumbling, slapstick security guard. Even stranger, Virginia Madsen shows up playing a ghost (angel?) dressed all in white, waiting to claim someone who is about to die. Fortunately, clearer moments abound, such as Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin as an aging sister act and a delightful Lindsay Lohan as Streep's cynical daughter (she writes poetry about suicide). Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly provide some levity as a comic singing cowboy act, and L.Q. Jones adds his gruff, pockmarked presence -- a real cowboy among the costumed variety. (Note: Robert Altman passed away November 20, 2006, making this his final film, and adding a previously unforeseen new level to its melancholy mysteries...)

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