Veronica Mars (2014)

From what I can gather, fans of the television series Veronica Mars have been wanting some sort of continuation ever since the show was ended in 2007. Having never watched the show, I can tell you that this movie — which came to us thanks to an unprecedented backing on Kickstarter — has made me interested in checking it out. It’s rare that a continuation like this works both for fans and non-fans, but Veronica Mars is one such film.

We open with a quick synopsis of what happened over three seasons of television from our lead, Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell). She was a loner teenager in the small town of Neptune who took up being a wannabe private investigator after her best friend was murdered. She’s since put herself through law school and is currently applying for jobs at prestigious New York law firms. She’s in a relationship with Piz (Chris Lowell), and has managed to put her sleuthing days behind her. She escaped the hellhole — her words — that was her hometown and it’s going to be smooth sailing from here on out. Right? Of course not.

An old boyfriend, Logan (Jason Dohring), calls her looking for help. His girlfriend, Carrie (Andrea Estella), has been murdered, and he was found at the scene. He claims he doesn’t do it, and hopes that Veronica will be able to help him choose a lawyer. Soon enough, she’s got an itch to solve the case herself, so she digs up her old detective gear and gets on it, much to the chagrin of her father (Enrico Colantoni), the town’s former Sheriff and current private investigator. Like father, like daughter.

So, it’s a detective movie. Or, more correctly, a “private eye” movie — but it’s the same thing. I feel like I was bemoaning a lack of films in this genre just the other day. Veronica has to solve this case, all while dealing with uncooperative Veronica Mars cameos, a corrupt police force, and an upcoming high school reunion, which she vowed never to attend. Much of the plot gives her reason to see old classmates — I presume that anyone who was contacted and wanted to reprise their role was somehow written into the script.

This will probably be where the film shines most for fans of the television show. There are a whole host of characters in this film that I feel like I should already have known prior to going in. Seeing how their lives have changed over the nine years that the film claims have taken place will be a joy to some people. Want to know how Wallace (Percy Daggs III) has done in life? Well, you get to find out in this film. I mention him specifically because we’re put on pause to find out exactly what he’s been up to. Maybe he was important in the show.

The solution to our central mystery often feels less important than jamming in all of these characters, as well as the process by which Veronica attempts to solve it. Watching her run around her old stomping grounds (although not the high school; I’m assuming lots of the show took place at a school) is good enough fun for someone without a vested interest, and I can only imagine how enjoyable it’ll be for someone who has been waiting with bated breath for some sort of follow-up.

Veronica Mars is a resourceful, smart, and somewhat snarky character. In short: she’s the perfect type of person around whom to base a detective movie. It allows for a few funny scenes, a couple of dramatic moments, and a mystery that’s both a challenge to her and to the audience — and one that you can also believe she can solve. Maybe you’ll have a leg up if you know these characters, but I wager that Veronica Mars is going to stay a step ahead of most of the people watching it.

There are a couple of points when Veronica Mars contains cameos that distract and take you out of the film, which for the most part builds its small-town atmosphere rather nicely. The first is one from James Franco, because of course it does. He has no actual reason to be in the film, but there he is, playing himself. Jamie Lee Curtis has a real role, but noticing her isn’t difficult. Justin Long and Bell’s husband, Dax Shepard, also each get a scene, although they’re not quite as bad — in large part because they don’t draw as much attention to themselves.

Kristen Bell is an immensely watchable performer and here she steps back into what seems like a very comfortable role. She hasn’t played Veronica in seven years but you’d never know it. She’s quick, snappy, and a great deal of fun to watch. It probably helps that series creator, writer, director, etc. Rob Thomas stepped into the director’s chair, as he must have given the set a sense of familiarity. Everyone else is fine, but being less familiar with their careers and in particular their roles in the television show, I focused primarily on our lead, and Bell delivered.

Whether you’re a fan of the original television series or not, Veronica Mars is an enjoyable detective movie. It’s got a good enough central mystery — one that’s likely to keep you guessing — enough moments of comedy and drama to hold your attention in the brief periods of downtime, and a strong lead character played wonderfully by Kristen Bell. If you are a fan, I’m sure the numerous references and the inclusion of several series mainstays will instantly remind you why you enjoyed the TV show in the first place. A project like this could have gone very wrong, but it went very right.

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