Mar 18 2014

Unreal Movie Review: “Veronica Mars”

Published by at 11:00 am under Movies,Reviews

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From Kickstarter to reality, the Veronica Mars movie is proof that no matter how far-fetched fan’s dreams may seem, technology is evolving at a pace where anything is possible. Fans quite literally brought the long-dead series back to life by pledging eight million dollars to get the movie made, and that level of passion brought nearly everyone back on board from creator Rob Thomas to almost all of the old cast.

But even $8M wasn’t enough to ensure the movie was properly distributed in theaters, so Warner Bros. and Thomas made the unusual decision of splitting between a limited theatrical release, and instant availability on demand through iTunes and Amazon on release day. As no theater within fifty miles of me was showing the film, I watched it via Amazon on my PS4. I’ll talk about this distribution strategy (and why it’s awesome) another day, but for right now, I want to focus on the film itself.

I’ll admit I’m not a longtime fan of the show. Or at least, I wasn’t. Only when the Kickstarter started getting so much attention I decided that “huh, there really must be something to this show,” and so for the first time in probably a decade, I bought a DVD box set of a TV series.

The result? They were right. You can read my full thoughts about Veronica Mars: The Series here, but suffice to say outside of a few missteps in season three, I thought it was all around very, very good. Veronica is a fantastic character, probably one of the best heroines TV has ever had, and the writing was consistently excellent. In short, it deserved all the fan support it got, and the movie deserved to be made.

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The film takes place a full nine years after the events of the end of the show, meaning we’re not going to jump into things with decade-aged actors and pretend like everything’s normal. Veronica (Kristen Bell) has moved out of Neptune and is now about to be a big shot lawyer. She’s been dating former college boyfriend Piz (Chris Lowell) for the last year and things have been going great until…

Logan.

Her former archenemy turned one true love has led a life of tragedy centered on the fact that his famous actor father slept with, and subsequently murdered, his high school girlfriend a decade earlier. We watched Logan go through a cycle of self-destruction for most of the show, and he and Veronica went from hating each other to loving each other more than once.

In the years since we last saw him, Logan (Jason Dohring) has gotten his shit together and is in the JAG corps flying planes for the military. But he’s also dating a pop star who winds up dead, with all the evidence pointing to him. Enter a pleading phone call to a girl he hasn’t spoken to in nine years.

Naturally, Veronica comes running, but finds when she gets there the pull of the mystery (and Logan) is too much for a simple weekend visit. She reconnects with her father, Keith (Enrico Colantoni), and friends Wallace (Percy Daggs III) and Mac (Tina Majorino). At her ten year high school reunion she finds old frenemies like Dick (Ryan Hansen), Madison  (Amanda Noret) and Gia (Krysten Ritter). Really, I could go on listing the entire list of who shows up to make an appearance, but it’s really nearly every major and minor character from the show. The only missing parties are Sheriff Lamb, whose role is now filled by his “older brother,” and Duncan Kane, but that’s for the best as he was the most wooden and out of place character on the show by a mile.

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The evidence about who killed Logan’s girlfriend seems to point to a crazed superfan, but as the singer went to Neptune High, Veronica soon discovers connections among her former classmates.

Things get a little weird here, as we meet new characters from her class we’re supposed to remember, but I’m pretty sure never actually existed when the show was on. After spending so much time with Veronica’s classmates, it’s a little odd for the film to suddenly say “oh don’t you remember Tom, Dick and Jane?” out of nowhere.

There are two ways of looking at the Veronica Mars movie, as a fan and as someone uninitiated. The movie is perfect fan service full of touching reunions and boatloads of inside jokes. I was practically tearing up seeing the beloved cast reunited, and the entire movie felt like some sort of strange dream. The central mystery was worthwhile outside of a few niggling issues, but the reunion is the main draw, and I don’t think many fans will leave disappointed.

But for those unfamiliar with the series, the central mystery might seem too mundane, the characters too one-note and forgettable. After all, fans had three seasons to get to know and love these characters. It’s hard to say that people would love them as much if they only had 100 minutes to spend with them, Veronica included. Still, the quality of the writing should be obvious to anyone with ears, fan or not.

It’s a lot like Firefly and Serenity. To outsiders, Serenity wasn’t exactly the best sci-fi movie out there, and sort of strange if viewed cold. But to fans? It was the culmination of a dream to see their beloved crew return (and with a bigger budget too!).

You’re obviously going to like a movie a lot more if you’ve already spend 15-45 hours getting to know the characters. Since I have, I loved it, but others may not feel the same. The solution to that? Watch the original show, and cap things off with the movie  (just like you should with Firefly/Serenity). You’ll get to experience a fantastic TV show and see the movie how it was meant to be experienced.

4 out of 5 stars





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