Blockbuster Reviews Are Here, And Critics Agree The Show Isn't Worth A Rental Fee

Randall Park in Blockbuster.
(Image credit: Netflix)

For those of us of a certain age, there’s something so nostalgic about Blockbuster Video's entertainment reign. I’m not saying I’d give up the convenience of being able to access nearly any title with a few clicks of the remote, though, and maybe that’s the balance that Netflix is trying to explore with Blockbuster, its new streaming comedy about the last remaining rental store. The series — whose cast includes comedy vets Randall Park, Melissa Fumero and J.B. Smoove — is now available for streaming, so let’s see what the critics have to say about the new Netflix show.

The workplace comedy sees store manager Timmy Yoon (Randall Park) trying to keep his location of the rental store alive, after finding out that his is the last one left. We’ll get straight to the reviews, with Ben Travers of IndieWire grading the series a D. He thinks the show lacks necessary nostalgia, and its scripts aren’t funny enough for the talented cast. The critic posits that this series is the kind of thing a real Blockbuster wouldn’t bother to keep in stock, saying: 

So Blockbuster isn’t about video rental stores, it’s not about shopping local, and [its] romantic subplot is an inevitable, infuriating waiting game. What is it about? Your guess is as good as mine. What’s the point of an office comedy about the last surviving video rental store that never acknowledges the intrinsic value of its workplace?

Kenneth Seward Jr. of IGN, expresses disappointment over considering what Blockbuster could have been in an ideal world. The critic also says the series doesn’t take advantage of its unique predicament, and fails to address any of the real hardships that video stores face in today’s world. Instead viewers are granted an unfunny series that could be set in any workplace. He rates it a “Mediocre” 5, saying in the review: 

Netflix’s Blockbuster is interesting in theory, with a sound concept about a dying video rental store and a cast that can be charming at times. Unfortunately, it fails at delivering on its unique premise, often settling on derivative storytelling. Nearly void of humor, with emotional moments that feel unearned, the show can’t rely on its cast either. It’s a bummer, considering what Blockbuster could have been.

Angie Han of THR calls Blockbuster “perfectly pleasant,” with the first season yielding a few belly laughs from its solid cast. However, this review states that the series is missing anything to distinguish itself. The critic argues: 

If Blockbuster isn’t doing anything especially wrong, its shortcoming is that it’s also not doing anything impressively right. After ten half-hour episodes, it has not yet found a spark like 30 Rock‘s distinctive comic sensibility or Parks and Recreation‘s knack for world-building or Abbott Elementary and Superstore‘s interest in social critique. In fairness, it may yet hone these strengths or find new ones if it scores a season-two renewal; plenty of comedies take a season or more to come into their own. At this point, however, even most of its characters feel like a relatively mild bunch, slotting into tried-and-true archetypes.

Liz Shannon Miller of Consequence comes to the Netflix series with the perspective of being a past video rental store employee (though not a Blockbuster), and she says the series is never able to escape its ironic and flawed premise. From the review:  

As a series, Blockbuster doesn’t really capture what we’ve lost or gained in the days of streaming, beyond championing the importance of human connection in these disconnected times. Its heart is good and there is potential. But it’s so committed to championing nostalgia for the past that it becomes myopic about everything else.

Saloni Gajjar of AV Club says the actors elevate the weak writing, keeping it from being the most disappointing of Netflix’s original series. However, there are still barely any laughs, and the cast can only shoulder so much of the burden, the critic says. 

The humor is either cringe-worthy or forced, as are the situations that lead to it, including a prank gone wrong and a ridiculous solar storm that briefly turns off the internet. The jokes often feel as dated as the Blockbuster gimmick it’s trying to pull off. At one point, a film-obsessed Carlos asks, ’How am I supposed to be the next Tarantino if I don’t work at a video store?” The question just doesn’t feel relevant anymore.

Blockbuster has accumulated a 17% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 18 reviews. However, the audience score is much higher, at 67% from 24 user reviews as of this writing. Because the series was just released on November 3, that audience score could change significantly as more viewers get through the series, though we probably shouldn't expect the critical score to vault much higher.

You can stream Blockbuster now with a Netflix subscription, and be sure to check out our 2022 Netflix TV schedule to see what new and returning series are premiering soon on the streaming service. 

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.