Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: Anna Paquin Is Rescued In Clip From 'X-Men: Days of Future Past - The Rogue Cut' Watch: Anna Paquin Is Rescued In Clip From 'X-Men: Days of Future Past - The Rogue Cut' Watch: Live Your Ultimate Fantasy With The First NSFW Trailer For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' Watch: Live Your Ultimate Fantasy With The First NSFW Trailer For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' Terrence Malick’s ‘Knight Of Cups’ Won’t Arrive Until 2016, Austin Music Scene Drama Not Titled ‘Weightless’ Terrence Malick’s ‘Knight Of Cups’ Won’t Arrive Until 2016, Austin Music Scene Drama Not Titled ‘Weightless’ The Punisher Will Reportedly Appear As The Villain In ‘Daredevil’ Season 2 The Punisher Will Reportedly Appear As The Villain In ‘Daredevil’ Season 2 'Lucy 2' And 'Colombiana 2' Are In Development 'Lucy 2' And 'Colombiana 2' Are In Development Mixed Reactions For Marvel's 'Ant-Man' After First Press Screening Plus New Promos And Pics Mixed Reactions For Marvel's 'Ant-Man' After First Press Screening Plus New Promos And Pics The Essentials: The 5 Best Rachel McAdams Performances The Essentials: The 5 Best Rachel McAdams Performances Kevin Feige Says 'Spider-Man' Is "Definitely A Sony Picture," Talks Role Of 'Ant-Man' In Phase 3, More Kevin Feige Says 'Spider-Man' Is "Definitely A Sony Picture," Talks Role Of 'Ant-Man' In Phase 3, More First Reviews For 'Terminator Genisys' Suggest Franchise Didn't Need To Say "I'll Be Back" First Reviews For 'Terminator Genisys' Suggest Franchise Didn't Need To Say "I'll Be Back" Kit Harington & Dakota Fanning Replace Robert Pattinson & Mia Wasikowska In 'Brimstone' Kit Harington & Dakota Fanning Replace Robert Pattinson & Mia Wasikowska In 'Brimstone' The Essentials: The 5 Best Colin Farrell Perfomances The Essentials: The 5 Best Colin Farrell Perfomances Review: ‘True Detective’ Season 2, Episode 1, ‘The Western Book of the Dead,' How It Differs From Season 1 & More Review: ‘True Detective’ Season 2, Episode 1, ‘The Western Book of the Dead,' How It Differs From Season 1 & More First Listen: Here's Your 'True Detective' Season 2 Theme Song & The First Episode Music Cues First Listen: Here's Your 'True Detective' Season 2 Theme Song & The First Episode Music Cues The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far 'The Leftovers' Reboots For Season 2, Switches Setting And Makes Casting Changes 'The Leftovers' Reboots For Season 2, Switches Setting And Makes Casting Changes The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: ‘Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop’ A Funny & Moving Portrait Of The Late Night Staple

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist June 24, 2011 at 2:44AM

The following is a reprint of our review from SXSW.
0


The following is a reprint of our review from SXSW.

The maelstrom of controversy, sensationalized media coverage and generally hurt feelings that broke out during the kerfuffle that surrounded the decision to dethrone Conan O'Brien from his position as the host of "The Tonight Show" after seven months (to replace him with Jay Leno… the man he replaced), was something supercharged and grass-roots out-of-control, eclipsing even the late night battle that had David Letterman angrily leaving NBC for greener pastures at CBS. In other words: it was an even bigger deal than the last time NBC fucked up.

And in the aftermath, O'Brien, legally banned from appearing on television for several months, took all the outrage and strong emotions (both good and bad) and funneled them into a traveling live show, which included a bold mix of music and comedy. It's both the live show and the accompanying feelings that take center stage in "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop," an unstoppably hilarious and surprisingly moving documentary.


In a brief recap rendered in cheapo Taiwanese news footage animation, we are told the story of Conan being usurped and replaced, with title cards that explain his idea for a touring comedy show that would span the summer (and ultimately bridge the "Tonight Show" and his TBS gig). We are then thrown into the madcap mind of Conan O'Brien: his compulsion to be applauded and his equally strong compulsion to entertain, the kinks that have to be ironed out for the performances (like finding background dancers and making sure everyone on the staff wants to come out for the on-the-road edition).

It's in these early sequences that the movie establishes itself as both a winning, charming, you'll-miss-stuff-because-you're-still-laughing-too-hard concert documentary and a peek behind Conan's psychological curtain. The movie wouldn't have been much if it had only been one half of this equation, but the two sides of the movie enrich it in profound and unexpected ways. It could have been really funny or really serious and still been good, but combined, it's downright amazing.

The tour and the documentary were launched almost immediately after his painful separation from NBC and the subject still seems very touchy and raw. Conan, addressing the camera, openly talks about the anger and grief that he feels very intensely, towards a job that he worked very hard at. The talk show host comes across as a complicated character indeed, and these asides (which pepper the rest of the film), give it an added dimension of weirdness and sadness. You get the impression that as disappointed as he is in the situation, he's more disappointed in himself.

Of course, the concert footage, which is doled out in large chunks so that by the end of the film you feel like you've pretty much seen the whole shebang, is side-splitting in its intensity and hilarity. Even funnier, too, is the behind-the-scenes footage. A particularly jolting sequence has Conan visited by his former "Late Night" costar (and current "30 Rock"-er) Jack McBrayer. Conan belittles him and performs nasty songs about him, all in a thick hayseed southern accent that, in and of itself, may have you busting a gut.

As the movie wears on (but ends before the 90-minute-mark, meaning there isn't a wasted moment), you grasp a fuller psychological understanding of what makes Conan O'Brien tick: his painful insecurities, his driven workaholism (which sometimes borders on dickishness, something he fully acknowledges), and his deeply felt ties to his wife and children. It's a round portrait, one full of contradictions and nooks and crannies of darkness and occasional self-loathing, and it's a story that's beautifully told. Through "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop," you see the man in full, even if it is a little blurry because you've been crying with laughter. [A-]

This article is related to: Review, Conan O'Brien Can't Stop


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates