Before we begin talking about the ‘Veronica Mars’ movie, we must first take a step back to appreciate how insane it is that a ‘Veronica Mars’ movie exists at all and is playing in theaters nationwide. I realize that the explanation behind the movie’s existence is quite simple. The producers put it up on Kickstarter, the fans coughed up the money and here we are. But setting that aside, this has to be the unlikeliest movie made since probably ‘Serenity’ (though it isn’t less likely than ‘Serenity’, as I still can’t believe that movie was allowed to happen). ‘Veronica Mars’ the TV show, has been off the air since 2007 (it’s actually been gone longer than ‘The Sopranos’, if only by a few weeks). It was a show that couldn’t garner solid enough ratings stay afloat on The CW, a network that will keep renewing ‘Supernatural’ for a hundred more seasons if the same nine people keep watching it. More to the point, unlike many other cult shows, there has been nothing keeping ‘Veronica Mars’ alive over the years. There have been no comic books, no conventions, no novels and no video games. And apart from arguably Kristen Bell (and this is only if you take ‘Frozen’ into account), none of the actors have had any great success in the years since. Up until a year ago, the idea of a ‘Veronica Mars’ theatrical film being made seemed far less likely than being invaded by creatures from the planet Mars.
But, however improbably, ‘Veronica Mars’ the movie does exist. I’ve seen it and can vouch for its existence. And Marshmallows (the name fans of the show have taken to calling themselves, seemingly on purpose) should be pleased with the results because this is a movie custom-made to make them happy. Picking up nine years after the show’s impromptu finale, the film finds Veronica living in New York with a stable life taking shape. Having graduated law school, she is now interviewing with prestigious firms and has settled into a serious, comfortable relationship with her college boyfriend, the preposterously named Stosh “Piz” Piznarski. She has put the corrupt, class-war-zone beach town of Neptune behind her and has never looked back. This all changes when she learns a former classmate-turned-pop star has died via electrocution and the prime suspect is her ex-boyfriend, Logan Echolls, who was also Veronica’s tumultuous former flame once upon a time. Logan requests her help and she can’t help but say yes for old time’s sake.
Once back in Neptune, on a trip that conveniently coincides with her ten-year class reunion, Veronica reconnects with many people from her former life, offering fans the chance to see several familiar faces. Veronica’s father, Keith, still runs Mars Investigations and still has a jokey, yet exasperated relationship with his daughter. Old friends Wallace and Mac have done well for themselves, becoming a JV basketball coach and software engineer, respectively. Frenemy Dick Casablancas has not changed in any significant way, still a surfing, drinking lecher prone to Kato Kaelin-ing on Logan’s couch. Most surprisingly, Logan, always an apathetically wealthy powder keg, has cleaned up his act and joined the Air Force before trouble once again came calling for him. When Veronica is duped into attending the reunion that she had planned to avoid like the plague, she further catches up with virtually anyone you can think of from the show, and finds that even all these years later, Neptune High remains a cruel place.
Though intending at first to only consult a bit on Logan’s legal behalf, Veronica ends up getting sucked back into Neptune’s orbit, at the expense of her lucrative career-in-the-making and her life with Piz. She starts picking up threads to clear Logan’s name and before long, she’s dusted off the telephoto lens and the stun gun and it’s like nothing has changed.
One big plus of ‘Veronica Mars’ in movie form is that the case is very succinct. The series always had to stretch its mysteries out endlessly, over many episodes if not entire seasons. Much padding and delaying was used to make the mysteries last, often resulting in great tediousness. By simple virtue of being a movie, this case does not have the need to run in place. However, the movie’s mystery could have stood to draw itself out just a bit longer than it does. By the time the investigation really begins cooking, it’s immediately resolved and the movie is abruptly over. And the resolution seems a bit simpler and smaller than the scope that the movie had been hinting at.
One issue from the show that also registers in the movie is the way the supporting cast is used, which is to say they aren’t. The show never really knew what to do with Wallace and Mac from week to week and they haven’t cracked that nut here, either. Both basically put in extended cameos. Still, they come off better than Eli “Weevil” Navarro, who is barely in the movie and whose only function is to provide a set-up for a sequel that more than likely will never be made. Like the show, the movie is only truly interested in Veronica and her relationships with Keith and Logan. The father-daughter duo remains as much fun as ever, with Keith getting many of the film’s best lines playing off of his pride and joy. Logan doesn’t fare quite as well. Jason Dohring’s sneaky wiseacre dialogue was always one of the best aspects of the show, but Logan in this movie is portrayed as a haunted brooder more than the sarcastic imp he used to be.
Being too close to the show, it’s difficult to say whether or not the film will be accessible to those who have never watched the series. I suspect it should work fine for newbies, since it doesn’t tap too deeply into previous ‘Veronica Mars’ lore, instead presenting a pretty straightforward murder mystery. However, the multitude of pop-ins by characters from the show and liberal use of in-jokes might make many feel like they’ve arrived at a party too cliquey for their liking. But for fans, it’s hard to imagine how the movie could accommodate them more. It covers almost every base you can think of (even the FBI-centered mini-pilot shot in a failed bid for a fourth season gets a shout-out). The thrill of seeing these characters again after so long is significant and the movie feels very much in sync with the series that inspired it, particularly in the humor and dialogue. It has a simple, practical look comparable to the series, which makes sense since it’s not like Kickstarter handed them $50 million to play with. More than anything, the film looks and feels like an extended pilot for a fourth season rather than a cinematic explosion of what we got on TV, and that is perfectly fine.
But that is the hitch to the ‘Veronica Mars’ movie. It does leave you hungry for more. The movie ends with Veronica exactly where we want her to be, but there is no guarantee that we will see her solve any future cases. This movie’s success is far from written in stone. But after spending the better part of a decade having to make do with the unsatisfying Season 3 finale as a swan song, perhaps this unlikely miracle of a movie giving the story a stronger note to close on is reward enough.
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