A long time ago *clap clap* we used to be friends *clap clap*… and I have thought of Veronica Mars lately. In fact, before launching fully-fledged into this review I should disclose that I have an invested here, as I contributed $350 of my hard-earned cash to the Kickstarter to get the Veronica Mars movie made. Why? That’s a simple question for mashmellows to answer. The TV series was one of the most original, witty and downright thrilling things on television when it ran from 2004 – 2007, before being cancelled in the middle of its season three run. Fans were outraged and upset as the story and fates of beloved characters were left unfinished.
Writer, director and creator Rob Thomas has resurrected the teen private detective who makes Nancy Drew seem like Hordor in Veronica Mars, the movie. A crowd-funding campaign to get the film off the ground was a huge success, and so continues the adventures of the colourful cast of characters. Set 9 years after the events of the show, Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) has graduated law school with flying colours and is interviewing at several prestigious law firms ahead of sitting the Bar exam. She has left Neptune and all its problems behind, save her college before Piz (Chris Lowell) who works for a New York radio station. But all the progress she has made is suddenly put on hold as she gets pulled back to her home town to help out former flame Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) who has been framed for the murder of pop star. Cue high school reunions, father and daughter shenanigans, and more punchy quips than you can poke a Joss Whedon at.
Let’s get this out of the way pronto: the Veronica Mars movie has problems, the biggest being that it doesn’t feel cinematic. Rather, it feels like a long episode of the TV series. The pacing is awkward and off, and there’s nothing visually that makes it feel like a movie. The central mystery too, is underwhelming. Sure, Veronica Mars has been out of the bizz for a while but this is the same woman who solved the murder of her best friend, uncovered a police conspiracy, assisted in catching a serial killer, found a mass murderer and brought a serial rapist to justice all while she was a TEENAGER. I could barely find my genitals at 16, while Veronica Mars was out stopping a high school massacre. The point being made is that solving a murder is fodder for the ‘tiny blonde annoying one’. The mystery needed to be smarter than this, the stakes higher. Perhaps the issue is that instead of the usual 20 or so episodes they have to unravel the intricate web of the storyline, Rob Thomas had to condense it to two hours so you miss all the delightful nuisances and plot twists. Perhaps.
Bell tears into the role that made her like Samuel L. Jackson does racist journalists: she’s relentless, ferocious and flawless as the character. All of the series regulars – and kinda regulars – return as you expect they would, with the highlight being Enrico Colantoni as the fictional father we all want, Keith Mars. Despite it being years since these actors filled the parts, the chemistry feels natural and familiar as they take to the big screen. Everyone involved with this project is clearly having a ball: Rob Thomas makes a wink to fan fiction and extends storylines that have enticed characters since the very first episode. Most importantly though, he ties up loose ends. Not in a finite, case-closed way: but rather he answers all the unanswered questions. He satisfies audiences worldwide yet concludes the story in a way that leaves plenty of potential for a fourth series or – geek Gods willing – a second movie. The appeal of this could be lost on first-time viewers, but for frenzied fans it’s dangling a delicious carrot.
It’s not as good as the best episode of the TV series and it suffers from a lack of high stakes, but the Veronica Mars movie is everything marshmellows could want. It completes and expands the storylines of favourite characters, while killing off a few others in typical Rob Thomas fashion. Veronica Mars, it’s good to see you again.
Maria Lewis - follow Maria on Twitter here: @moviemazz or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.