Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile Previous Previous Next Next
Conan O'Brien Can't Stop - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Conan O'Brien Can't Stop
Directing: B+
Writing: A-
Cinematography: B
Editing: B-

Full disclosure, even if Conan O'Brien had gone on to host The Tonight Show indefinitely, I'd still be watching David Letterman instead. That said, way back in my early twenties, I used to watch Letterman nightly -- and then switch over to Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Much like Letterman, Conan was always fresher and funnier than Jay Leno, whose dominant ratings remain either an outright mystery or a sad reflection of American taste.

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop offers an inside look at the Conan that existed in between his departure from The Tonight Show in January 2010 and his debut with Conan on TBS the following November. This period included his Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on TV Tour, during which time his contract with NBC prohibited him not just from being funny on TV, but from being funny at all. So, to give his fans a little something during the hiatus -- and to give himself something to do -- he toured the country with a live show.

Personality-wise, Conan actually seems to occupy a comfortable middle between Jay Leno and David Letterman. He has all of Leno's graciousness without the pipsqueakiness, but also much of Letterman's snarkiness without the standoffishness. This all comes through in documentary film form far better than it did in the media hoopla over his struggle with The Tonight Show, or even as a host of any of his own shows.

There are moments in Conan O'Brien Can't Stop when he takes a few steps closer to coming across like a spoiled star: in one moment, he's graciously greeting what seems like a dozen of one of his backup dancers' friends and family, and the next, he's complaining about crew members bringing so many people for him to talk to back stage. I found myself wondering how that "Cocette" felt about this movie presenting her as such an inconsiderate person. (Maybe she really was; maybe it was just the editing.)

That said, Conan's concerns, gripes and complaints are never quite without warrant -- although he goes a bit too far when he says straight into the camera: "I'm the least entitled person you'll ever meet." Really, Conan? Anyway, his not wanting to wear out his voice every night with an endless stream of meet and greets makes sense, as does the anger he openly talks about having toward the people who treated him unfairly at NBC. Granted, he made off with a pretty sweet settlement, but his is a pretty good example of the fact that money alone does not always make things right.

And so, director Rodman Flender treats us with behind-the-scenes footage of Conan and his crew working on the show, tracking the sell-out rates of the tickets, and then plenty of footage of the show performances themselves. If, like me, you never got to see one of these shows live, Conan O'Brien Can't Stop will make you wish you had. This guy has a relatively unique back story as he broke into the TV world with next to no real experience -- but there's one thing it always comes down to: He's funny. And so is this movie. What's not to love about, say, seeing Conan O'Brien walk out onstage in a custom-fit replica of the suit Eddie Murphy wore in Raw? He can barely move in it.

For the most part, we just see Conan letting off steam by having fun. There are some unpleasant surprises and twists during the course of the tour (at the Bonnaroo Music Festival, he only finds out at the last minute that he's expected to do mini comedy sets before introducing each band), but, all things considered, he handles them well -- and keeps the audience entertained.

The same can be said of Conan O'Brien Can't Stop, at least once the ball gets rolling. There's a fair amount of sloppy editing and low-quality camera work for the first half hour or so, during which time not much of the film is that funny. But once the tour gets into full swing, and we get to see Conan both as a live performer ("This is the first time anyone's paid to see me," he says -- before putting on a pretty spectacular show for a live debut) and as the regular human he is offstage, the regular bursts of laughter are a guarantee. And that's the hook, as it always has been for him, which leaves him satisfied at the end of the tour, just as it does us.

The jilted late-night talk show host finds consolation in applause in 'Conan O'Brien Can't Stop'.

Overall: B+
Leave a comment