At the end of the day it doesn’t even really matter what I say about the Veronica Mars film, does it? If there’s ever been a critic-proof movie, it’s this one. Fans begged and pleaded and demanded that the creators return to the world of Neptune, California for almost a decade. They wanted this movie to happen so badly that when Rob Thomas set up a Kickstarter to fund the film it surpassed its goal in record time. Basically, unless it’s X-Files: I Want to Believe, most fans are just going to be happy the thing even exists. But the question still looms, was it worth the investment?
Fortunately, I think most fans are going to walk out of the theatre pleased by what’s essentially a long episode of the series. It’s very good, and it seems like that’s exactly what Rob Thomas was aiming for. He knew the limitations he had going in.
That’s not to say he doesn’t do a lot within those limitations, and that he doesn’t do even more with the added room to play around afforded by the insane amount of money Kickstarter raised.
The plot is pretty straightforward, or at least as much as a Veronica Mars plot can be. Veronica is in New York, interviewing for a position at a prestigious law firm, happy in her new life, far away from Neptune, when she finds out that one of her old classmates (now a famous pop star) has died and the main suspect is Logan Echols. So, of course, she hops on a plane to go help him. The mystery that follows tests Veronica’s resolve as she tries to decide between helping her ex and escaping the town that almost ruined her life in so many ways.
If you were wondering what happened to your favorite supporting character, there’s a very good chance you’ll find out. Part of the freedom granted by the film’s expanded budget was the ability to bring in a larger cast, and Thomas did exactly that. He brought back as many actors from the series as he possibly could, some in small cameos and others in major roles (recasting only one part). It also allowed him to bring in some larger-name actors for cameos, such as Jamie Lee Curtis as the head of the law firm Veronica interviews for.
Of the main cast, you can tell these actors loved and miss playing these characters.
Kristen Bell slides comfortably back into the role that made her famous (far more so than in the string of unsuccessful romcoms that defined her post-Veronica Mars career), bringing the same snark and toughness that made the series so popular in the first place. Only now that the character is ten years out of high school, the murders and the betrayals in the past, her toughness seems more earned, less preternatural. This isn’t just something felt by the passage of real-world time, it’s shown in Bell’s portrayal of Veronica.
Jason Dohring’s Logan Echols is less angry at the world when we last saw him (less certainly doesn’t mean not, by the way) and more disheartened by how fate just refuses to let him have the slightest bit of happiness. (Spoilers for a ten year old TV show) From his father killing his girlfriend, to his mother committing suicide, to the world thinking he murdered his latest girlfriend, Logan now carries the world-weariness that comes from a life filled with the deaths of those closest to you.
Enrico Colantoni imbues Keith Mars with a desperation for a better life for his daughter. His need for her to escape the quicksand that is Neptune is palpable, even when he’s not specifically saying so (though most of lines are about how she has to go back to NY).
Tina Majorino and Percy Daggs’ Mac and Wallace have much smaller roles than one might expect, mostly showing up to relay exposition or advance the plot before leaving. They’re great when they’re on screen (almost always together), leaving me wishing they were there more.
If there was anything else I wish I could change, it’s that the script is too pleased with itself. There are a thousand “clever” references and in-jokes and nods to the fans littered throughout the film, if they cut out a quarter of them there’d still be a lot. Does Veronica need to refer to herself as a “marshmallow”? Does Piz need to talk about someone using Kickstarter to revive a failed project? Probably not, and there are so many more like those.
Aside from that, there really isn’t much to complain about with this film. Veronica Mars is exactly what fans were hoping it would be, a return to and a swansong for a series that was cut down too soon. The film itself isn’t world-changing, but it wasn’t trying to be. And that’s ok. The way it was made already was.
Veronica Mars hits limited theatres, VOD, and the inboxes of some Kickstarter backers tomorrow.
I give Veronica Mars 7.5 STUN GUNS out of ten.
Oh, and this is the YouTube video Deputy Sacks refers to. It’s from That Mitchell and Webb Look.