The Last Blockbuster (2020)

You know how sometimes, you stumble onto a documentary about an esoteric topic, which is, in of itself, a selling point? That’s kind of what “The Last Blockbuster” is like, going over the circumstances leading to the financial erosion of Blockbuster Video within the lens of the last remaining store (in Oregon, natch). It’s interesting for sure, especially if you’re like me and grew up haunting the aisles of any video store you were lucky enough to find; but on the other hand, the movie tries to do some sidestepping over big issues that end up coming across misleading or misrepresentative. For instance, the fact that Blockbuster leveled independently owned stores with an advantageous, flagrantly unfair connection to major movie studios is glossed over as a ‘whadda you gonna do’ but the reality is that most folks who have a fondness for video stores don’t exactly have that same warmth for Blockbuster specifically. The chain’s negative impact on independent and extreme cinema is similarly ignored, like how its decision to not carry any titles rated NC-17 ended up influencing studios to gut their properties in order to sanitize them for the masses, who weren’t interested in that type of cinema anyways. So, there’s this aura of “corporate ra-ra!” to the proceedings that’s incongruous with the facts of the industry, not to mention the former-and-current senior management team of Blockbuster, who all come across as dispassionate (at best) of their chosen industry, sometimes veering straight into barely-concealed disdain for their own customers. It’s that corporate disinterest and heartlessness that makes the central family at the heart of this documentary seem, well, kind of misguided: The Hardings seem like a lovely bunch, with Sandi as the maternal figure of the local Blockbuster who has accrued good will in her community, but the corporate honchos are so joyless and life-sucking that you can’t help but feel a bit sorry for the Hardings that their livelihood is in the hands of suits who just don’t care. So all in all, it’s not exactly great; the scenes with Sandi and the Hardings are fine, the corporate interviews are the worst, and the various comedians and media personalities that director Taylor Morden has managed to assemble for talking head interviews veers from the passionate and articulate (Adam Brody, Samm Levine) to the obnoxious and off-putting (Doug Benson, Brian Posehn, Jamie Kennedy, Ron Funches). So, a mixed bag as they say, but closer to three stars than two, in my opinion.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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