Veronica Mars review
Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell bring Veronica Mars to the big screen, courtesy of nearly $6m in Kickstarter funding. But is the film any good?
The story behind the Veronica Mars movie is extraordinary. It should never have existed and might never be emulated again but, if the film is a success both with audiences and financially, then that story could become an amazing fairytale of fan loyalty and creative triumph. If it were to disappoint those who bankrolled the comeback via Kickstarter, however, all of that could be instantly forgotten. But that pressure aside, rarely has there been such a lovingly crafted adventure in fan service as this, with cast and crew banding together to create something purely for those loyal devotees – defying the CW’s cancellation and making international news out of a television series that barely anyone watched in the first place.
But that’s history now and, after a groundbreaking and unprecedented campaign to resurrect our favourite (once) teenage sleuth for a big screen comeback, Veronica Mars is very much in the cultural discussion. All eyes are on this movie – fans for the delayed resolution to a frustratingly unfinished story and others for its potential to alter the movie making model for the future. And here's the good news: the Veronica Mars movie comes off as a wonderful (potential) send-off for the character, a love letter to the fans and a success story for a show that could have died a long time ago. This is what we’ve longed for, with everything that worked on the small screen transferred beautifully to a slickly realised 109-minute labour of love.
After taking a brief trip down memory lane (thanks to a heavy dose of early exposition), we learn that Veronica (Kristen Bell) is living in New York and interviewing for snazzy lawyer jobs while dating old college boyfriend Piz (Chris Lowell) and steering clear of any drama. With Veronica being the addict she is, however, it’s not long before temptation arises in the form of old flame Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), who has been accused of murdering fellow 90er girlfriend Carrie Bishop (here disappointingly not played by original actress Leighton Meester, but replaced by Andrea Estella). That the case happens to coincide with the timing of a ten year high school reunion is a not-so-happy accident, and the hunt for answers leads Veronica to reconnect with some familiar faces, old friends and bitter enemies she’d rather have left in the past.
With big delays or when a story switches mediums, there’s always the fear that what we loved about the original could be lost in translation, but that definitely isn’t the case here. Veronica is back in every single way – mind, body, heart and spirit – and, for those who kept the hope alive for so many years, handing over their cash as soon as the opportunity arose, that’s the greatest gift imaginable. Not only do we get Veronica and Keith (Enrico Colantoni) back investigating the escapades of Neptune’s ever-more corrupt elite, but there's also a return for every member of the main cast along with supporting characters who played a role in establishing Neptune High as a living, breathing, Hellmouth-esque nucleus during the first two years of the show.
The criticisms that will meet the film will be regarding its distinct lack of cinematic aspirations. This is not a blockbuster movie designed to appeal to a mass, uninitiated audience, but a feature-length finale to a show that has no qualms about littering the script with in-jokes and references, and nothing more than a stylised ‘previously on Veronica Mars’ segment inserted at the movie’s start. New viewers will likely find themselves lost and adrift after the first ten minutes but, that said, it also serves as a lovely introduction to everything this world has to offer. Repeated or adapted themes from episodes past form the basis of the film’s mystery and various character journeys, for example, resulting in a gratifying microcosm of Veronica’s world.
The things existing fans will love about the film are just too numerous to list here. There are endless cameos that somehow never feel tiresome or unnecessary, the razor-sharp wit and humour that characterised the show is intact, and there's a sense that the place in which we find everyone is completely in keeping with the way we left them back in 2007. Keith and Logan are the most important and thus prominent returning players but, if your favourite character happens to be someone else, rest assured that absolutely everyone gets their turn in the spotlight. It’s kind of obvious when you think how long we’ve been waiting but every development, whether it’s for specific characters or their relationships, feels totally earned and completely deserved.
The film’s smallness makes it hard to imagine it as the huge financial success we’ve secretly been hoping for, and there are plenty of flaws that could be picked at, but that’s hardly the point. This is a movie that defied all the odds and owed fans a lot for their support and loyalty, and it has more than delivered on its humble promise to finish the story we all fell in love with nine years ago. This is the finale we deserved back when Veronica Mars was still on the air, but it’s also a great demonstration of what made the show special in the first place. Even if it doesn’t capture the attention of the average moviegoer, at least it will prompt newbies to go back and experience the show, and that’s just a bonus.
Always rewarding but never self-indulgent, the movie version of Veronica Mars is as much a continuation as it is a loving swan song to the original show, and enthusiasts and curious film fans alike can stop worrying. Whether this project changes anything or not, impossible movies are a cause for celebration just for their mere existence. It’s all true fellow Marshmallows – Veronica Mars is back, and she's in the form of her life.
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