REVIEW: “Veronica Mars”

VERONICA

It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly what stirred my interest in the recent television-to-big screen movie “Veronica Mars”. I have never watched a second of the UPN and later CW television series. In fact I had no idea what the show was about or who Veronica Mars was. I had also heard practically nothing about the movie itself, how it ties into the series, and if a prior knowledge of the show was essential to understanding the film. So what on earth was it that drew me to see “Veronica Mars”?

I finally concluded that one of my attractions to the project was the perky and infectious Kristen Bell. She is certainly not what you would call a top-tier actress and she has made her share of stinker films. Yet there has always been something about her that I find fun. I was also attracted to the story behind how the film was eventually made. Some six years after the show was cancelled, show creator Rob Thomas and Bell started a fundraiser via Kickstarter in hopes of bringing “Veronica Mars” to the big screen. After a month the campaign had earned over $5.7 million from donors and Warner Brothers picked it up for distribution.

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The film starts out with a brief narrated summary of the series mainly intended for newbies like me. Nine years have passed and Veronica (Bell) has moved out of Neptune, California. She lives in New York City, has a great boyfriend, and is on the verge of landing a prominent job at a prestigious law firm. But then she hears the news that a former classmate and current self-destructive rock star has been murdered and Veronica’s ex-boyfriend Logan (Jason Dohring) has been accused of committing the crime. Veronica agrees to go back to Neptune to help Logan select the best council for the upcoming trials.

But of course if that is all there was this would be one boring movie. While back in Neptune Veronica runs into many of the same headaches and conflicts as before – the people who made her high school life miserable, the high society arrogance, and the unbridled corruption of the local sheriff’s department. On the good side she gets to spend time with her private detective father (Enrico Colantoni) and reconnect with few good friends she left behind. There is clearly a lot of connections that make these relationships meaningful – connections that saw their genesis in the television series. But writer and director Rob Thomas does a good job of giving us the general idea of who these people are.

And then there is the murder case. Soon Veronica finds herself drawn into the mystery and the revelations of small clues are just enough to keep her in Neptune a little longer. Well, the clues and Logan. I know nothing about their past relationship and their reconnection is one of the aspects of the film that suffered (from the perspective of someone unfamiliar with the original material). They do have a nice chemistry and you genuinely get the sense that Veronica wants to help this old friend. There are also a number of other characters that pop up as well as an assortment of cameos.

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“Veronica Mars” is definitely a budget film. Everything about it feels like a television show and it never rises above standard television production value. The camera work, the dialogue, the story structure – it all feels like it could have melded right in with the TV series. But is that automatically a bad thing? Considering the budget constraints and its television roots, “Veronica Mars” actually feels right at home. More importantly it tells a good and intriguing story. There are momentary contrivances and the occasional strained dialogue, but ultimately the movie works.

Do you have to be knowledgeble of the TV series to enjoy “Veronica Mars”? Thankfully no, but there were plenty of times where I felt out of the loop (I still don’t know what marshmallows have to do with anything). It certainly doesn’t lean on cinematic grandeur nor is the script without a few bumps. But “Veronica Mars” does deliver where it counts. It’s entertaining, Bell is fantastic, and I was engaged with it from the start. It’s clear that a lot of heart was behind the project and I tip my hat to the filmmakers, the stars, and the fans who had the passion to make a movie like this happen. And don’t worry, the pieces were definitely put in place for yet another trip to Neptune.

VERDICT – 3.5 STARS

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32 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Veronica Mars”

  1. I only watched sporadically some episodes of Veronica Mars. I do think it’s kind of cool that fans have contributed to reviving their show. I’m not sure, but I think “Mars”hmallows is a term for fans of Veronica Mars. Great review as always!

    • Hey thank you very much. I guess I can see that as a term of affection. That makes sense. This really is a good little movie. Obviously by my score it’s not perfect and it’s not something that will stick with you a long time. But it certainly does a good service for the fans and like you said, it’s such a great story about how the film was made.

      You may know more about this, but didn’t it set some Kickstarter records?

  2. Yeah I think it’s really neat how the funds for this film were raised via Kickstarter. Definitely an interesting bit of backstory. Dunno if it’ll wind up catching my attention though, I like Bell enough but this isn’t my sort of thing I don’t think. Good review though!

  3. Had such a good time with this, that it actually makes me want to watch more of the TV show. Only saw a few episodes here and there back in the day, and from what it seems like, I’ve been missing out. Good review Keith.

  4. Nice review. Always interesting to see an opinion from the perspective of someone who hasn’t seen the show. Good to see you enjoyed it. I would recommend the TV show if you ever get the chance. The first season is especially good, which I loved for the really quite strong emotional bond between Veronica and her dad. It’s also an early showcase for Amanda Seyfried.

    • Okay, so it sounds like you’re a big fan of the television series. What did you think of the movie? Did it capture the spirit of the series? I too was curious. I wondered what big fans of the show thought about this big screen version.

  5. I might give this a rent Keith, nice to hear that you don’t have to be knowledgeble of the TV series to enjoy this movie. I quite like Kristen Bell and I like Jason Dohring from his short-lived stint in CBS vampire show ‘Moonlight.’ 🙂

    • Yes it’s definitely worth giving a look. It’s certainly nothing you should feel compelled to go see in the theater but it’s still fun. So you never watched the show either?

  6. Great review! I’ve never seen the show, but will see almost anything with Kristen Bell. I’m glad to hear you don’t need to have an extensive background of the show to still enjoy it. I find it really interesting this project came to fruition thanks in large part to a Kickstarter campaign. I don’t think it’s playing anywhere near me, so I’ll have to wait and rent this one.

    Are there any television shows you’d like to see as a film?

    • It has been available On Demand in some areas as well. May be worth checking out (if you haven’t already).

      As for television shows, I’m really not a huge TV watcher except for movies. But one show that has screamed for the big budget big screen treatment is 24. I loved the first three seasons of that show.

  7. I’ve not seen the TV show so will probably steer clear. I think most, TV shows should stick to the small screen to be honest, and that goes for 24 and Entourage too. They just don’t translate well 99% of the time I don’t think.

    The only one I can think of that probably would, at the moment, is True Detective, and that’s because it already features two Hollywood heavyweights anyway.

    • I basically agree with you there. I think what’s interesting in a case like this is that Veronica Mars was never going to be on television again. A big screen feature gave these fans a chance to get more. And in making a big screen movie, it doesn’t necessarily mean big budget or wide release anymore. I think that’s a door that independent cinema opens up – so a little movie like this can come along.

  8. Just got my blu ray copy. Cant wait to watch it and I never even watched the show but that may change. Nice work on the review. Stoked for this one. Thanks!

    • It’s not a bad movie at all. I do believe that those who are more familiar with the show will have a better time. But I actually enjoyed it even though I didn’t know much about the history.

      • I no almost nothing about history as well. I’m sure I will find much to like. If I dig the movie enough, I may go back and watch the show. My daughter seems to like it and she’s picky, lol. We’ll see.

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