Although he’s one of the most successful and famous pop musicians of his era, Sean Combs has always been something of a mystery. Blame the ever-changing stage names (Puffy, Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Diddy, and counting) or the timing of his biggest hit-making years coming during a decade when hip-hop struggled to balance mainstream materialism, social consciousness and street cred.
Whatever the reason, the Daniel Kaufman-directed documentary “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A Bad Boy Story” seems more intimate and revealing than these sorts of artist-approved self-mythologies usually are — even if it fails to fill in all of Combs’ blanks in 80 minutes.
Composed of archival footage, reflective interviews and fly-on-the-wall scenes of Combs rehearsing for a reunion tour with his former Bad Boy Records label-mates, “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” leans too hard on the petty crises and predictable triumph of the concerts, at the expense of more fully exploring the headiness of ‘90s rap.
But the old and new performances are tuneful and energetic, and Kaufman’s cameras catch Combs in an unusually pensive place and age (late 40s) as he looks back on old rivalries and absent friends.
It’s almost as though Combs knows his public image remains fuzzy, caught among such labels as “mogul,” “criminal,” “sellout,” and “under-appreciated genius.” Consider this movie a purposeful step toward cementing a legacy.
‘Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A Bad Boy Story’
Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.
Playing: AMC Universal CityWalk, Universal City; also available on Apple music June 25