I grew up right around the time Blockbuster started dying. I can remember occasionally going to my local Blockbuster with my family and renting videos, but it wasn’t something we did all that often. With that said, I still have quite a nostalgic kick for the idea of Blockbuster—and video stores in general. For me, video stores are akin to libraries—they’re places you can go to find new films that are curated by people trying to give you a positive experience. And, in that regard, I will always be a little sad about the demise of video stores. Yes, it’s far easier and more convenient to just rent a digital copy of a film from Amazon or iTunes or whatever, but you lose out on that curation, on that sense of community. And it’s this very point that gets highlighted in The Last Blockbuster, a documentary about, well, the last Blockbuster in the world.
As a documentary, it’s sort of formless. Ostensibly, it’s about a Blockbuster in Oregon—the last Blockbuster left open. There are interviews with some of the people who work there, including Sandi, the store’s manager. There’s a lovely emphasis on how it’s a family-run store—which is kind of ironic given the way Blockbusters bulldozed over numerous family-owned video stores in the eighties and nineties. But really, it’s a film about the idea of Blockbusters—what they stood for, what they meant to people, and why they’re important. The documentary is filled with interviews from famous/semi-famous people, all talking about the impact Blockbuster had on their lives. From the likes of Kevin Smith, to Doug Benson, to Paul Scheer, to James Arnold Taylor, even to Lloyd Kaufman, it’s a hodgepodge of filmmakers and cinephiles gushing about their love for Blockbuster.
And, honestly, it’s pretty infectious. You’re not gonna learn a whole lot from this documentary. Yeah, there’s some interesting stuff about how Blockbuster wasn’t really killed by Netflix, but instead died a longer death due to the 2008 economic downturn. And there’s a decent amount of Blockbuster history scattered throughout. But mostly, this is a documentary celebrating Blockbuster as a piece of film history. It’s a warm, nostalgic funfest that’ll leave you feeling good inside. The formless nature of the documentary creates this very chaotic style that feels oddly appropriate for a film about Blockbuster. Blockbuster was one of those stores where you could pretty much find anything, and this hodgepodge of segments (some heartfelt, some deeply silly) feels very representative of what being inside a Blockbuster felt like. On the whole, it’s not an amazing film, but it’s a fun look back at an American institution we’re all starting to feel nostalgic for. There are worse ways to spend ninety minutes, and I’d give this a recommendation to anyone wanting a blast from the past. There’s nothing like a video store and The Last Blockbuster makes sure to remind you of that.
4 out of 5 wands.