Story: A one time giant in the home video business, Blockbuster has all but vanished from existence, though one store managed to survive well beyond the rest. After the rental titan had been more or less shut down, a wave of nostalgia has greeted Blockbuster in the years around this documentary, which is the real focus of The Last Blockbuster. Despite the aggressive business practices employed by the chain that would run nearly every small, local video store out of business, many people have donned rose colored glasses when looking back at Blockbuster. That’s about half or more of this documentary, a series of celebrities pining for the glory days of Blockbuster, while downplaying any negatives and being lost in a delusion of glamorizing the past. But beyond those talking heads, the story of Blockbuster unfolds here, as well as the tale of the final store on the planet.
Entertainment Value: The rise and fall of Blockbuster is an interesting story without question, with several angles that could be explored in depth. In The Last Blockbuster, we’re given a brisk historical snapshot of how the rental giant was formed and how it evolved, as well as the eventual downfall, but it burns a lot of time on filler interviews. I wouldn’t have minded one montage of memories from the celebrities featured here, but they dominate the documentary and not only take up a lot of the runtime, but contribute little to the experience. I think you could cut nearly all of these talking head interviews and little insight would be lost, as most do little other than view Blockbuster through rose colored glasses, projecting their nostalgia nonstop. Jamie Kennedy being in a Blockbuster commercial is a fun trivia bit, but it doesn’t need an entire sequence plus several smaller interviews, when Kennedy, like most of the celebrities here, has no real insight to offer. Kevin Smith at least tries to weave the nostalgia into something more, but otherwise, I could have done without the celebrity talking heads here.
While the celebrity interviews are a disappointment, the rest of The Last Blockbuster was much more worthwhile. I enjoyed all of the time spent on the company’s history and legacy, which yields some interesting information and perspectives. There isn’t immense depth in these areas, due to time limits, but what is here is well done and fun to watch. I can only think of how much better it would have been to focus more on the history and go more in depth on some topics, rather than hear yet another standup comic talk about how Blockbuster stores smelled. I appreciated the history of the rental chain, but the documentary does gloss over how predatory Blockbuster was and how it all but killed the video store ecosystem. Troma kingpin Lloyd Kaufman is given a very slim window to speak on that, but the movie opts for nostalgia over reality, so the vision is mostly skewed and overly positive. The real draw here however is the titular last Blockbuster store, which allows us to meet the store’s manager and get a look inside her life as the manager of the final location. This could have been a lot better, but for a brisk, mostly fluff documentary, The Last Blockbuster is passable.