Film: ‘Veronica Mars’ is a Fun, if Formulaic, Return for the Title Character

By Will Ashton || @thewillofash
Veronica Mars
| Directed by Rob Thomas | Rated PG-13
RATING: 3/5 an episode and a half. Maybe less.

That is the answer to the question that I feared I would have to ask during my watching of the film continuation of Veronica Mars. As a movie made—literally—from the power of its fans, it is one that I knew would be by the fans and, more importantly, for the fans. I figured that the movie was for them and would force me to have to ask: how many episodes of this show have you seen? Because, if you are to enjoy this movie, you’d have to have seen them all.

And I, unfortunately, am not a Veronica Mars fan.

That is not to say that I dislike the show, what little of it I have seen. It just means that I have a little understanding of its characters and their wacky hijinks in solving mysteries while also dealing with high school. The idea of seeing the show crossed my mind once or twice, particularly when the news that Kickstarter helped create this movie in the first place, but it just didn’t seem to be my type of thing. I’m sure it’s a fine enough show, but I have so many other shows that I want to get around to and will (hopefully) get to before I leave this Earth.

Plus, I made a pact with myself not to watch any shows on the CW that are not Family Feud or Whose Line is it Anyway. And besides, I saw Brick many moons ago, and aren’t they pretty similar? Besides the fact that this one has a chick.

With all that said, even if it had to throw into my face several times that I have not seen the show, the film of Veronica Mars was something I wanted to see. Not just for how it changed movie history, if in a minor way, but to see exactly what it was about these characters that made fans want to throw more than two million dollars its way to see it happen.

That story is how Veronica (Kristen Bell), now nine years removed from her high school days, is brought back to her hometown of Neptune to help her former flame Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) get his name cleared after he is accused of killing his girlfriend Carrie Bishop, a former classmate of theirs who now goes under the pop name Bonnie DeVille. Oh yeah, along the way she reunites with old friends and enemies, goes to her high school reunion and does other fun things because it’s a movie now.

Although I feared that my lack of fandom to the show would be a wrench in my chain throughout the watching of this film, I was surprised by how well director and co-writer Rob Thomas (who also created the show) is able to walk the line of enjoyment for fans and non-fans. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is definitely a movie for the fans. And, to its credit, it wears it on its sleeve, sometimes annoyingly so. But it is able to give a recap of the events of the show without feeling like its interrupting the greater story, and baby feeds the virgin audience members while continuing to move the story along in a fun fashion.

Additionally, Bell, who clearly loves this character, seems to be having a ball returning to play her. This is probably one of her better performances in the past couple years, even though I am one of the few people who did actually get a kick out of Hit & Run, and there is a passion in her eyes that is infectious for the audience—whether they are a fan or not.

Not, with that out of the way, I want to get into my gripes with the film. Not that I have many, but I feel it is important that I mention what about this film doesn’t work. For better or for worse, this is an hour and a half episode of the show. Normally, I would say that as a compliment, but I say this because this means that this cares alongside it the typical melodrama, heavy-handedness and formulaic storylines that scared me away from getting into TV before shows like Breaking Bad and True Detective came along.

While there are quite a few jokes that work—probably the best one involves lipstick within the first ten minutes of the film—there are more than a few that are dropkicked in that feel awkward and forced. Additionally, the general storyline, while well paced and safely executed, is also a bit too familiar for its own good.

Now, I get that this show is supposed to be a fun sort-of modern day take of film noirs and mystery adventures with the twist of a female protagonist that isn’t Nancy Drew. And that, more or less, is what’s here too. Perhaps fans like that familiarity with a side of blandness like old people like going to bingo, but, for me, it gets a little repetitive and a bit dull after a while. There’s enough fun here between the cast members and the writing to make it all work, but I couldn’t help but wish that the filmmakers put just a little bit more originality into this story.

Additionally, there are boatloads of cameos in this picture. That is neither a compliment nor an insult, just an observation. Some I never expected. I wouldn’t spoil them, of course. But I will say that one very early in the movie made me geek out a little bit. OK, maybe a lot.

With my non-fan reservations aside, I will admit that, all things considered, this is a fine, fun little movie. Will I remember it later this week? Probably not, but I enjoyed what I watched. With the exception of the story of how it was made, the movie doesn’t reinvent the wheel. But it executes it well, and knowingly tips its hat along the way, reminding us to never take it too serious and to just enjoy the ride. I can respect that.


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