You ever hear the one about the guy who asked for “Of Human Bondage” at the video store and was told to look in the “adult” section? I saw it happen. In the ’80s. A fair amount of “The Last Blockbuster,” a documentary on video stores — and on one store in particular, as the title implies — spends time with Gen X folks kicking around not dissimilar reminiscences.
Directed by Taylor Morden and narrated with engaging energy by the actor Lauren Lapkus (“Orange Is the New Black,” “The Big Bang Theory”), the nostalgia appeal of the movie extends a bit beyond its subject. Its talking heads — including the director Kevin Smith; the actors Jamie Kennedy and Ione Skye; the comedians Brian Posehn and Doug Benson; and members of the music groups Savage Garden and Smashmouth — make the documentary feel like a supersized episode of the old VH1 show “Best Week Ever.” Coincidentally, VH1 and Blockbuster Video once had the same corporate parent, Viacom.
The movie does a good job of explaining the fundamentals of the video store as a business, and how corporate machinations relative to debt and capital led to the Blockbuster chain’s doom. Was it, as conventional wisdom holds, Netflix that killed Blockbuster? The answer is both “no” and “sort of.”
As this pleasant but ultimately inconsequential movie’s narrative thins out, it emphasizes again and again that there is, as of now, only one operating Blockbuster store in the world. Luckily its proprietor is the warm and ingratiating Sandi Harding, who reckons that by now she has given a job to almost every teenager in the town of Bend, Ore., where the store operates. She refers to herself as a “Blockbuster Mom.”