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October 2006
A Prairie Home Companion DVD Review

By Kam Williams

A Prairie Home Companion DVD Review

Cast: Garrison Keillor, Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Tommy Lee Jones, Lily Tomlin, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, Virginia Madsen, Maya Rudolph, Lindsay Lohan
Director: Robert Altman
Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
Language: English
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Number of discs: 1
Rating: PG13
Studio: New Line Home Video
DVD Release Date: October 10, 2006
Run Time: 105 minutes
DVD Features:
Available Subtitles: English, Spanish
Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
Commentary by director Robert Altman and actor Kevin Kline
"Come Play With Us: A Feature Companion" featurette
"Onstage at the Fitzgerald: A Music Companion" - extended musical performances and advertising segments
Soundtrack preview (jump to songs in the film)


Adaptation of NPR Radio Show Arrives on DVD

Since first making its debut on Minnesota Public Radio back on July 6, 1974, A Prairie Home Companion has entertained millions of fans with its mix of folksy music, offbeat advertisements for imaginary sponsors and homespun monologues, all ostensibly emanating from Lake Wobegon, the mythical Midwest “town that time forgot.” In truth, the live show is broadcast from the stage of St. Paul’s famed Fitzgerald Theater, which has long served as home base for the popular NPR series.

The program still airs Saturday evenings and is hosted by originator/scriptwriter Garrison Keillor, a consummate storyteller with an incomparable gift for crafting affectionate portraits of rural Americana. His droll sense of humor and deadpan delivery combine to craft comfy tableaus in the fertile imaginations of audiences fond of his nostalgic brand of theater of the mind.

This screen adaptation was directed by Robert Altman, whose trademark approach to moviemaking is evidenced by the character-driven plot executed by an ensemble encouraged to improvise much of their dialogue. The cast features Keillor and many of the regulars musicians and crew members from the radio show as themselves, though most of the lead roles are played by A-list actors including Meryl Streep, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly, Lily Tomlin and Lindsay Lohan who do all their own singing

The film is narrated by Kevin Kline as Guy Noir, a down-on-his-luck private eye. The cleverly-concocted tale unfolds on the night the Texas conglomerate which has just purchased the historic theater announces plans to turn the building into a parking lot.

As with any Altman endeavor, it makes more sense to savor the atmosphere of each scene for its own sake, instead of expecting a structured plotline. Highly-recommended for loyal devotees inclined to approach A Prairie Home Companion as a cinematic capstone on Keillor’s magnificent career.