The documentary, ironically available on Netflix, remembers the video store chain’s hayday
Most of us remember it well.
The smell of the crinkly plastic, the grease of the faux butter leaking through cardboard packaging, the perfectly vacuumed royal blue carpets. Jingly background music. Blue and yellow in all directions.
This, here, was our church, our Friday night chapel of new releases and candy.
This was Blockbuster.
The new Netflix film The Last Blockbuster explores the day-to-day lunacy of, well… the last-ever Blockbuster. It’s in Bend, OR, and it’s a fucking trip.
The store’s owner regales the camera crew with tales of failed trips to Target in search of new releases to offer for rental at Blockbuster. She guides us through the storage room, showing off the ridiculously out-of-date technology needed to run the store’s cash registers and databases. Her store is on its final leg, and the The Last Blockbuster’s narrative through-line is in the looming deadline for licensing renewal from Blockbuster’s parent network.
The Last Blockbuster leans into the meme-iness of the situation: it’s admittedly bizarre that this one faction of the once-loved video store chain has survived this long. The former chain’s CEO makes clear, though, that Blockbuster didn’t fail because of Netflix. No, no, it was something else, according to him: but, at least as far as this film goes, that “something” is never made especially clear.
The fact that the film is available solely on Netflix is hilarious. Like, damn. That’s adding insult to injury. Blockbuster is but a distant memory for most of us, one replaced by the glitzier and far more accessible Netflix streaming service, and its spiralling offshoots like Disney+. The Last Blockbuster is a fun and easy watch, but the Netflix-shaped giant filtering each and every claim from the documentary’s subjects makes one question the film’s credibility: who else will streaming services squash in their journey to ubiquity?
As far as films go, this one’s fine, a standard documentary about a niche and yet easily graspable subject. One wishes the film might delve a little deeper into the economics of Blockbuster’s demise, or even the greater socioeconomic implications of the monster corporation brought to its knees by a once-startup.
The Last Blockbuster verges on being overly saccharine, interested in novelty alone — and that novelty doesn’t really make for a long-lasting impression. You watch it, you giggle, you look up the former chain’s (extremely funny) Twitter feed.
And then you shut your Netflix tab.