'Can't Stop, Won't Stop: A Bad Boy Story': Film Review
Daniel Kaufman's documentary profiles Sean Combs, telling the story of his history-making record label.
To say that the new documentary about Sean Combs and the record label he founded isn’t revealing would be unfair. After all, by the time Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A Bad Boy Story reaches its conclusion, viewers will know that the rapper/businessman wears Calvin Klein boxer briefs. And that a room in his home is devoted entirely to candy.
Such are the revelations of this, pardon the pun, puff-piece documentary designed to celebrate all things P. Diddy. Revolving around the preparations for a 2016 Bad Boy Records 20th anniversary reunion tour kicking off at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center (the label was founded in 1993, but whatever), this hagiographic effort from first-time director Daniel Kaufman mostly plays like a promotional video.
A good-looking one, mind you, as the documentary alternates between color and striking black-and-white footage, with the latter making it at times resemble, well, a Calvin Klein ad. It recounts the history of Combs’ massively successful label, dutifully depicting its founder as a modern-day Horatio Alger figure who as a little boy sat on the stoop of his family’s modest Mount Vernon, N.Y., home and looked on enviously at the neighbors frolicking in their pool. The subsequent glimpses we see of Comb’s present-day Holmby Hills mansion present a striking contract, to say the least.
Testifying to Combs’ greatness — besides the man himself, of course — are such colleagues as Jay Z, Jimmy Iovine, Mary J. Blige, Nas and Clive Davis, the last of whom seems to be embarking on a new career consisting solely of appearing in music-themed documentaries. Much of the film is concerned with the story of Bad Boy Records’ biggest star, Biggie Smalls, who was slain in 1997; Combs has dedicated himself to memorializing the rapper ever since. The archival footage includes such memorable scenes as a teenage Biggie rapping on a Brooklyn street, and his massive funeral procession winding through his native borough.
We also see the extensive preparations for the concert, with a clearly nervous Combs acting as both taskmaster and motivational coach to a roster of stars including Blige, Mase, Carl Evans, Lil’ Kim and Faith Evans, among others. The segments — ranging from rehearsal footage to such pseudo-intimate moments as Smalls' former wife Evans and former girlfriend Lil’ Kim patching things up — are introduced via portentous graphics (“3 Days to Show,” “7 Hours to Show”) as if the event was a space launch, not an arena concert. When a microphone malfunction mars Combs’ entrance at the first show, he’s later seen agonizing over the glitch as if his career depended on it.
For all his endless egotism and braggadocio, Combs is an undeniably charismatic and compelling figure, and his story could have made for a highly interesting film. Unfortunately, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop doesn’t even try to fulfill that ambition.
Production: Live Nation Productions
Director-director of photography: Daniel Kaufman
Producers: Sean Combs, Heather Parry
Executive producers: Alex Avant, Andre Harrell, Michael Rapino
Editors: Armen Harootun, Luke Lynch, Paul Rogers