A pretentious train wreck of a good idea, A Prairie Home Companion is exactly like the film version of the radio show that it is. Only worse. While while A Prairie Home Companion is merely a pretentious few hours of nostalgia, the movie is a cavalcade of all that is perceived by stupid by a distant, out of touch elite.
Radio like you’ve never seen it before. Or would want to.
The idea behind A Prairie Home Companion, for those who haven’t visited Garrison Keiler‘s Lake Wobegon for themselves, is that one can somehow listen to a radio show from sixty-some years ago. Old style advertisement, music, and dramatic shorts make you think “this is clever” when you first hear it. Followed rapidly by “What else is on,” because A Prairie Home Companion is far better as a nostalgia trip than either a recreation of the world that was. Nor it is very funny. A laugh every fifteen minutes isn’t “funny.”
In spite of these faults, the radio program at least knows what it is nostalgic for: late 1940s radio in the upper Midwest. The film only knows that it’s a show for “stupid” people, and that all such country bumpkins are alike.
So one personality has a thick and painfully thick Minnesota accent. Two are cowboys, because presumably farmers and ranchers were coterminous in place and time. We have southern revival-style music mixed freely with paeans to specific Minnesota placenames. An “angel” walks with a soul singer, neither having much to do with the show’s sense of place.
In A Prairie Home Companion, Hollywood presents up with a coalition-of-the-oppressed view of the past. Countryfolk are stupid, ignorant, and all the same. To complete the effect, throw in an arrogant businesslike Texan whose “eyes do not focus” and a suicidal sophisticate played by Lindsay Lohan. Yes, Lindsay Lohan.
I give it five out of ten. If you’re into pain with occasional bursts of pleasure but don’t have a knife handy, A Prairie Home Companion is for you.