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Conan O'Brien Can't Stop (2011)

Magnolia Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/13/2011

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/12/2011

One trend which shows no sign of going away is having people blame the media for everything. Be it violence, teenage pregnancy, ADHD, bullying, etc., the public loves to point fingers at the media, as it's an easy scapegoat. However, few ever go in the other direction and praise the media for the things which it can bring to our attention. Just look at the donations which pour into the Red Cross when we see a disaster on the news. We can even get caught up in causes which aren't really causes. I've caught Conan O'Brien's shows here and there, but I've never been a regular viewer or recorder, as I've never been a huge fan. However, when the Leno vs. Conan fallout occurred last year, I couldn't help but follow the story. There's no doubt that Conan got a raw deal and I wanted to see him get some sort of justice. And, when he get his new show on TBS, I tuned in to see his triumph. The documentary Conan O'Brien Can't Stop focuses on what O'Brien did in the period between his NBC show and his TBS show.

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop opens not long after Conan O'Brien walked way from The Tonight Show on NBC. As part of his agreement, Conan couldn't appear on television for six months. So, he and some of the team from his show decided to put together a variety show tour. We see O'Brien, his constant sidekick Andy Richter, writer Mike Sweeney, and Conan's assistant Sona, among others, as they plan and rehearse the show. The camera crew then follows Conan and his team out on the road. We watch them go through the opening night jitters as they get used to being on the road. The shows are all sold out and Conan has to learn to balance giving 100% on-stage and meeting the crowds afterwards.

Director Rodman Flender (who has made some crazy horror movies like Idle Hands and The Unborn and seems like an odd choice for this documentary) was clearly granted full access to Conan and his staff, as the movie does a great job of taking us inside the tour. Through the on-camera "confessionals" and the candid, sometimes awkward moments back-stage when we see shots of an exhausted Conan after a show, we truly get a feel for how dedicated O'Brien was to the endeavor. This intimate look also creates some uncomfortable moments in the second half of the film, as Conan dreads the "meet & greets", but can't say no to them. Knowing that he's a comedian, we must take everything that Conan says with a grain of salt, but we can't help but feel that his complaining is genuine. On the one hand, it's easy to understand his feelings, as he's tired from the performances and the tour is putting a strain on his voice, so meeting a group of strangers is the last thing that he'd want to do. On the other hand, he could have nixed the idea of "meet & greets" on the tour from the outset, so this creates a "be careful what you ask for" situation. I have to assume that Conan had some sort of creative control over the documentary and it's interesting that he allowed these moments which make him look like a prima donna.

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop works very well as a documentary, as it gives us an inside look at a particular event. However, unlike most documentaries, it's also a very entertaining movie. While I think that Conan has a very difficult time knowing when to end a joke (his use of pantomime really gets on my nerves), he is a funny guy and has some great lines here. We get to see many moments from the show, and I must say that the music wasn't to my liking (save for one great cameo), so I don't think that I'll be borrowing any CDs from Conan. However, there are several funny moments from the performances and it's interesting to see how smoothing Conan's TV humor moves to the stage. Both during the show and the backstage footage, it's Andy Richter who emerges as the star of the movie. His one-liners and reactions to situations are priceless and I really wish that there had been more of him in the movie.

I don't have any exact statistics, but it often seems that more documentaries than ever are being released today. That's all well and good, but the vast majority of them deal with very serious and depressing subjects, and while they are important, that's not what I'm always looking for at movie time. Conan O'Brien Can't Stop does have some serious moments, as it's clear that O'Brien is angry about losing his former job and anxious about the tour, but it's also a portrait of a man who loves to perform and thus, offers both insight and entertainment.

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop makes one question O'Brien's treatment of his assistant on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Magnolia Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. Being a documentary, the video quality isn't consistent and is often at the mercy of its environment. Some shots are very bright and clear, while others are dark and muddy. On the whole, the image looks good, as it's sharp and free from intrusive grain. The colors look good, but we do get some blurring of the image, thanks to the verite style. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.0 Mbps. This track works best during the live shows, as the crowd noise comes from the surround speakers. We get some decent stereo effects at times when someone off-screen speaks. The music provides mild subwoofer effects.

The Conan O'Brien Can't Stop Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Rodman Flender, Conan O'Brien, Andy Richter, Mike Sweeney, and Sona Movsesian. This commentary is hilarious, and often much funnier than the film itself. Richter kills here and I wish that this had been a video commentary instead. The Disc contains ten ADDITIONAL SCENES which run about 42 minutes. These simply offer more moments from the tour, some interesting, some not. On the whole, there are more less interesting ones here, or ones which resemble items which made the final cut, so it's understandable why they weren't included. "Interview with Conan O'Brien" (14 minutes) has the comedian discussing the documentary and the tour. "Interview Outtakes" offers 4 minutes of additional footage from the previous interview, most of which is simply O'Brien rambling and running with jokes.

Review Copyright 2011 by Mike Long