Movie Review: Veronica Mars

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Former teen sleuth Veronica Mars is drawn back to her hometown from a promising life in New York when her ex-boyfriend asks her help in proving he didn’t murder his girlfriend.

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Rob Thomas, 2014

Following on from the cult TV show, Veronica Mars is set 9 years after the show ended, during the week of Veronica’s 10-year high school reunion. Determined not to go, Veronica (Kristen Bell) is living in New York, where she has rekindled her relationship with college boyfriend Piz (Chris Lowell) and is interviewing for a job having recently completed law school. After a promising interview, she receives a call from her high school flame Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), asking her help in finding a lawyer to defend him in a murder case. Public opinion declares Logan to be the murdered of his girlfriend Bonnie DeVille, now a famous pop star, so Veronica goes back to help. What starts as a brief visit becomes an extended stay as Veronica discovers massive police corruption, investigates worrying new truths about old acquaintances, and tries to solve the murder of Bonnie DeVille.

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My signed version of this poster is coming. Soon. Soon I will have the precious…

This one’s going to need a little backstory. Veronica Mars is one of my favourite TV shows of all time, and when I discovered a year ago that they were starting a Kickstarter campaign to bring the show back for a movie, it was incredibly exciting. I pledged what is, for me, an obscene amount of money to the project, happy to invest in something I genuinely love and know backwards and forwards. I am coming to this review not only as a fan but as an investor; $200 worth of that movie is mine, in a sense, and I have followed every step of its journey to the screen. I am hoping to be as fair as I can be, but that’s going to be hard with the level of excitement I had for this film.

The movie gets off to a rocky start; there’s an opening montage from the show to get newcomers up to speed, in strange grainy-looking graphics with the familiar Veronica voice-over. We get a fabulous Jamie Lee Curtis cameo as one of Veronica’s interviewers for a new job, but the movie doesn’t really get going until Veronica returns to the wonderfully seedy, polarised town of Neptune, California, home to movie stars, politicians, gangbangers and crooked sheriffs; the very rich and the very poor converging on one town. The TV show was a high school noir with a tough, sharp, whip-smart protagonist, and the movie ramps up the noir stylings with a grey colour palette and a seedy murder mystery. The movie does a good job of incorporating a whole lot of returning characters into a complex murder mystery, as well as establishing a sub-plot involving the increasing police corruption; all the fan favourites are here, the original show’s catchphrases and signature moments intact, but the story is still interesting and compelling. Drawing characters we know from the show into the murder plot was a stroke of genius; not only Logan but Gia Goodman (Krysten Ritter) and Luke (Sam Huntington) get in on the action, along with hilarious newcomer Ruby Jetson (Gaby Hoffmann), who cuts loose here as Bonnie’s biggest “fan”. As in the show, Dick (Ryan Hansen) is a gift of a character, crude and stupid and wickedly funny, and the return of Veronica’s best friends Mac (Tina Majorino and her hair) and Wallace (Percy Daggs III and his newfound hotness) and father Keith (Enrico Colantoni) brings welcome levity and loyalty to the film. There’s also a few really fun cameos that fans (and non-fans) will love.

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The Veronica Mars cast with director Rob Thomas at the SXSW film festival.

I’m not sure how well this will translate to a new moviegoing audience, because I think the film’s biggest flaw is that it never actually becomes a movie. As a pilot for a new Veronica Mars show it’s brilliant. The care given to each and every beloved character is exquisite; everyone has aged believably, the characters having grown from the teenagers we knew into adults they would absolutely become. The metaphor of Veronica as an addict is a particularly clever one. Veronica is drawn back into the drama of Neptune bit by bit, hit by hit – a car ride with Logan, an unfair arrest, the chance to go undercover and discover people’s secrets, running from the bad guys. There’s nothing to elevate it to a single, stand-alone film, though, which could be its fatal flaw in getting more movies made in the future. It would be disappointing not to follow up on this delicious entree, but it was a delight to reunite with these people and this world; I honestly spent half the movie grinning from ear to ear. Rob Thomas’s (not that one, the other one) skill with dialogue is intact; the movie retains the show’s wit and humour, with any number of quotable lines and laugh-out-loud moments. Logan, the show’s most popular character, is a bit of a wet blanket in the film, but he’s cancelled out by a brilliant turn from Kristen Bell in easily her best role to date, and you can feel the joy exuded by the other actors at being asked to return to this well-crafted world. I hope people who discover this film enjoy it and rediscover the show, I hope we get more, but I’m very happy with what we’ve got.

Veronica Mars on IMDb

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2 thoughts on “Movie Review: Veronica Mars

  1. Brendan

    Possible Spoilers:
    I too really enjoyed it, but it did feel more like an extended episode than a movie as such… Which is fine, as I suspect that Veronica Mars, like Star Trek, will be at its best on the small screen.
    My main gripes are that I felt Chris Lowells character got a really short shrift, and it, on the whole suffered from a lack of Mac!

    • I actually thought Piz did better in the movie than I feared he would. At least he got to dump Veronica, and people in the movie liked him. I didn’t think it was ever going to work out between them but it could’ve been worse, and he got to be in it. I love Piz. I like Mac, maybe if we get another movie there’ll be more of her.

      And my favourite Star Trek remains the reboot movie :p

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