On the one hand, as a fan of the band I'm grateful to have such a nice retelling of their story, crisply paced, and full of details I'd never heard.
On the other hand, I found myself at the end of it rather sad and swimming in nostalgia, and there's something so creepily unpunkrock about that, I'm not sure the basic message of keep-on-moving, do-it-yourself came out in the end.
I suspect that's a distinction between the perspective of the filmmakers, who came upon their subject matter after D. Boon's death and the split-up of the group, versus my own perspective, as a contemporary fan of the group (the number of familiar faces appearing on screen was astonishing.) I couldn't tell you where I was when I heard about Kurt Cobain's death: I can tell you that I was in the basement of Third Street Jazz in Philadelphia on December 26th, 1985, leafing through the 45s when I heard that D. Boon had died (four days earlier).
As such, I also suspect the reaction of the viewer will be quite different depending on whether you were there or whether this is increasingly ancient history.
Here's what stands out:
As a standalone documentary, it certainly tells the story well enough in a conventional narrative that it stands as history.
It's probably that there just wasn't enough time to come out with a fast-paced informative film and deal with more of the complexities of context that shaped the band. It's one thing to note three relatively untutored guys in a working class / military town railing against the creative and political repression of Reagan's America, but with twenty years between the film and the demise of the band, we might be able to start explaining to future generations just what it was like to live under the cloud of nuclear annihilation while living on government cheese. As such, this ended up playing more like a fan's document than broader history. Nothing wrong with that, mind you; it's just there's another movie to be made sometime.
I do warmly and highly recommend this movie to anybody with an interest not just in the Minutemen per se but pop music history in general. They were paradoxically both sui generis while epitomizing the way bands lived, worked, and died back in the day. This is a primary document in that sense.
There's a contemporary question to be asked about whether art thrives, or is the answer, in a climate of repression. The United States (and Western Civ in general) has produced enough wealth and free time, and still has enough basic freedom, to allow bands to go off and create bizarre explosions like that of the Minutemen, to let artists paint 'Piss Christ' and the elephant dung Madonna even while most folks get their culture via 'American Idol'. I find it an interesting -- and open -- question about how long this little extra margin of corrosive questioning that borders on bourgeois self-indulgence will be allowed to continue (or can continue) even as technology allows the dream of the band on every block and the record 'label' on every fourth block. The line between passion and fearfulness is murky and is being built into literal walls, higher every day. I mourn the fact that D. Boon isn't with us today -- who knows what the previous twenty years would have brought in terms of music and activism -- and yet I can hear him screaming from beyond the grave that it's up to me, and nobody else, to do something about it. Writing great songs ain't enough.