Me and Veronica Mars used to be friends, a long time ago, but I… would be lying if I said that I hadn’t thought of her lately at all.
For the last year, the campaign has been the story. Rob Thomas did the impossible, resurrecting Veronica Mars — his long-cancelled and cult-adored teen-PI television series — with the help of series star Kristen Bell, the majority of the original cast, Warner Bros, and 91,585 fans on Kickstarter, who shelled out $5,702,153 (far exceeding the campaign’s $2 million dollar goal) to make this all happen.
In that time, some have debated the morality of what they perceive to be a big studio essentially begging for charity while fans of other shuttered TV shows swelled up with envy before pondering whether their beloved shows might return in the same magical way. Veronica Mars fans? They’ve been over in the corner plotzing and counting down the days until Veronica Mars: The Movie got its release date, rendering this glorious year of anticipation and all the frustrating and rumor filled years that preceded it as nothing more than prologue.
So, now that we’re here, where are we?
Warning: Mild Spoilers Ahead
Following a montage-y pair of moments for the uninitiated in the beginning (really the only overt reach-out to those who weren’t fans of the show), we find Veronica (Bell) in unfamiliar territory, chasing her dream life down in New York City, far away from Neptune, her father Keith, and all of the friends who held her up and pulled her down during the series.
Law school and a renewed relationship with “Piz” (Chris Lowell) — a veritable Mr. Perfect with a perfectly calm job working at NPR alongside Ira Glass — have taken the place of spy cameras and breaking and entering. It’s a superficially stable and better life, but when old flame Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) rings her up after being arrested for the murder of Carrie Bishop aka Bonnie DeVille, his pop-star girlfriend, Veronica puts everything on hold and rushes to his aid. A decision that might have been more impactful had Thomas given us a fuller look into Veronica’s new life in the first act, rather than returning her to her old stomping grounds less than 10 minutes in to the film.
Once back in Neptune, Veronica’s brief trip keeps gaining in length. Logan’s case is naturally appealing to Veronica (as is he, ever the appealing bad boy, awkward and scared at first before they ease into their old rhythm), allowing her to slip back into her old role as sleuth and shoe-stone while snooping about the increasingly corrupt seaside town.
Her zeal clearly bothers her father, Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni), but his paternal advice is mostly restrained, allowing Veronica to immerse herself in nostalgia while pushing off her pending new job at the upscale law firm/Activia factory that Jamie Lee Curtis works for.
Curtis is one of several recognizable cameo’s alongside Glass, James Franco (who can’t stop playing versions of himself, it seems), Party Down alum Martin Star, Justin Long, and Bell’s husband Dax Shepard.
A high school reunion, which is conveniently going on at the same time as Veronica’s visit, allows for Thomas to jam in nearly every other major character from the show’s history as Mac (Tina Majorino) and Wallace (Percy Daggs III) — who have fuller supporting roles as Veronica’s “scoobies” — drag Veronica to the festivities. Once there, Veronica gets to “party” with with Dick (Ryan Hansen, who is so very Dick in this), Luke (Sam Huntington), Gia (Krysten Ritter), and Weevil (Francis Capra) before Logan starts a fight to protect Veronica’s honor while Piz (who Mac and Wallace flew in — to save Veronica from herself?) initially sits on the sidelines to crack what may be the funniest line in the script when he agrees that Neptune High exists on a Hellmouth, a Buffy reference that is oh so appropriate for a show that often felt like Buffy without the bloodsuckers.
Other small cameo’s from the Marsverse include Ken Marino reprising his role as rival PI and van smut king Vinnie Van Lowe, New Girl star Max Greenfield as former dedicated Neptune deputy Leo, and deep voiced attorney Cliff McCormack (Daran Norris), who shows up to get Veronica out of jail after she’s busted by new sheriff Dan (brother of Don) Lamb’s men after sweet talking her way into the apartment of a Bonnie DeVille stalker/suspect (as played by Abby Hoffman in a wild and weird performance).
So, is the stalker the one who killed Claire/Bonnie? Fans of Veronica Mars know that it’s rarely ever the first suspect, but I won’t spoil the film any further. What I will say is that while this movie doesn’t go out of its way to court new fans, it is a breezy beachfront noir with a charming and genuinely funny (at times) script and great performances from the principles, specifically Bell, who takes about 90 seconds to remind us why we loved this tough, smart, and cool character who absolutely takes no shit when she eloquently flips off a pervy lawyer.
That script, which is wrapped in a cloth of seemingly effortless cleverness, and that rhythm and chemistry between Bell and her castmates (specifically Dohring, Colantoni, and Lowell, who is pitch perfect as the embodiment of stability and ease) is just about the best part of the film, aside from a few fan service moments that are thrown in to delight those 91 thousand investors, like the mention of Veronica’s “other life” in the FBI.
While at times, the Veronica Mars movie feels like a shrunk down season of the show, there really is a bit more edge and a lot more reflection on Veronica’s efforts to come to terms with her addiction (to the adrenaline that comes with chasing down murderers), what that says about her relationship to her alcoholic mother, and what she wants for her life. Really, this is a mostly non-sentimental, adult, and skillful follow-up that expands the universe of the show rather than sitting back and cashing in and for that, Thomas should be commended.
Some of the “shockers” are telegraphed, some come out of the blue to actually surprise you, but none are as surprising as the ending, which will surely be controversial among Veronica Mars fans and which impressed me most of all.
Veronica Mars gets four stars from me for the full way that it examines its main characters compulsions and how badly it made me jones for more. You can catch it at a theater near you and on VOD via Amazon and iTunes.