**** (out of 5)
March 14, 2014
Kristen Bell as VERONICA MARS
Jason Dohring as LOGAN ECHOLLS
Krysten Ritter as GIA GOODMAN
Ryan Hansen as DICK CASABLANCAS
Francis Capra as ELI “WEEVIL” NAVARRO
Percy Daggs III as WALLACE FENNEL
Chris Lowell as STOSH “PIZ” PIZNARSKI
Tina Majorino as CINDY “MAC” MACKENZIE
Enrico Colantoni as KEITH MARS
Ken Marino as VINNIE VAN LOWE
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Rob Thomas
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Never having watched the “Veronica Mars” television show in the mid-2000s, I never saw what all the hype was about. In fact, I didn’t even realize it had that it was such a big cult show until the Kickstarter campaign for the film hit the web and broke all sorts of records.
Initially skeptical of the upcoming movie, I took the opportunity to watch a good chunk of the series on Amazon Prime before seeing the film. While I wasn’t a die-hard fan – not even close to calling myself a “marshmallow” – I developed an appreciation for the fan base.
I never finished the three seasons of the show. I only got part-way through season two, but I figured that was a good thing going into the film. After all, armed with a little knowledge of the show, but not nearly at the hyper-devoted fan level, this would be a good way to gauge the movie’s appeal to the casual viewer.
It turns out that it’s not necessary to binge-watch all three seasons of the show in order to understand the movie. In fact, aside from an admittedly large number of call-backs to the series itself, “Veronica Mars” the film does a fine job getting the non-fan viewer up to speed on the show.
Taking place nine years after Veronica (Kristen Bell) left Neptune High School (aka “was canceled”), she is interviewing for jobs at law firms in New York City. However, the death of one of her former classmates-turned-rock-star draws her back to the west coast. It turns out that Veronica’s ex Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) is suspected of murder… again. So, Veronica returns to Neptune to reconnect with some old friends and dig into the case.
On the surface, “Veronica Mars” can be dismissed as fan service to the marshmallows who doled out $5.7 million via Kickstarter to get this movie made. However, it’s more than that. Already, the film is going to go down in history as the first film to be at least partially fan-funded, bypassing (at least partly) the vast studio system that locks out the viewer and his or her opinion. In this sense, “Veronica Mars” is nothing but a triumph, giving the fans exactly what they want in a new movie and literally delivering a product that was unheard of ten years ago when the show dropped off the air.
“Veronica Mars” works also because it’s not just for the fans. Sure, the more you watched of the original series, the more you’re going to get out of the show. In fact, if you didn’t watch the original series, there’s a sequence in the middle in a bar which spends a good five or six minutes being nothing more than a curtain call to the characters in the show. That’s when the non-fan can go get popcorn or take a bathroom break.
It’s not that the “Veronica Mars” series was tightly plotted and impossible to understand. It’s pretty straightforward, and that works for the movie. We get the sense that she hasn’t fully grown up and longs to return to Neptune even though it’s a place of pain and disdain for her. Even more, what has become with the character of Logan Echolls is even more interesting. He was nothing more than a spoiled high school brat with no thought of the consequence of his actions. We see a Logan now ten years older and ten years (slightly) more mature.
The 107-minute running time seems a bit long for what really amounts to a richer episode of the hour-long teen drama, but I’d rather the film play up the fan service for 15 minutes or so throughout rather than cutting away valuable story time. Once you get past the 10-year reunion nature of the film (which you will either gobble up or roll your eyes at, depending on your marshmallow status), there’s a decent little mystery sewn into the plot.
Ultimately, the fan of the series will go bonkers with this big-screen adaptation of their favorite TV show. However, the casual viewer – or even the viewer who has never watched a single frame of “Veronica Mars” on the WB back in the mid-2000s – can find a catchy whodunit with some unexpected laughs.