‘Veronica Mars’ Review

%27Veronica+Mars%27+Review

Warner Bros. Digital Distribution

Sydney Rogalsky, Arts & Entertainment Editor

In the “Veronica Mars” movie, Kristen Bell reprises her role as the eponymous character, leaving behind her small town life in favor of New York City as a big-time lawyer with her significant other, Stosh “Piz” Piznarski (Chris Lowell). However, when her high school classmate and love interest Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) is accused of murdering his pop star girlfriend, Veronica returns to her hometown in order to help Logan seek capable legal counsel in preparation for his trial. Yet, as Veronica learns more about the murder, she becomes increasingly convinced that Logan is faultless, framed by the true killer, and sets out to prove his innocence. In the process she enlists the help of old friends, faces off against former nemeses, and butts heads with the new town Sheriff Dan Lamb (Jerry O’Connell).

After the abrupt cancellation of the “Veronica Mars” TV series, director Rob Thomas prepared a film script to help provide closure to the show’s characters and remaining story arcs. When Warner Bros. decided not to back the project, Thomas enlisted fan help through a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign – raising an additional $5 million in funding. Thankfully, the money was a worthwhile investment – and fans now have a fitting conclusion to their beloved series.

Understandably, fan service is priority one, obvious in the way the story draws heavily from past characters and narrative arcs. Newcomers will likely find the film enjoyable at surface level, but will ultimately be confused by references to Veronica’s days in Neptune and the constant appearances of old faces. Fortunately, the show (and subsequently the movie) often relies on basic murder-of-the-week storytelling – providing an approachable foundation. Like any serialized TV mystery, the final reveal won’t shock viewers but there are enough compelling twists and turns along the way to keep the film engaging (even for newcomers).

Still, the film’s TV roots are noticeable. Perhaps because there are no real cliches of movie mysteries immediately apparent, production values on the film are solid – especially when one takes into consideration “Mars’s” modest budget. That said, there’s a striking disparity of quality between select onscreen performances. Key members of the cast haven’t done much acting since the show was cancelled while others have gone on to big screen success. As a result, in certain moments, a few fan-favorite characters come across stiff and stilted – outshined by actors that are more experienced and overall capable. The divide is emphasized further by surprise cameos ranging from A-listers like James Franco to Bell’s offscreen husband Dax Shepard that are at times mildly amusing, but are often downright distracting.

This isn’t to say that any of the core performances are bad, it’s just that, in his attempt to reunite the entire “Veronica Mars” ensemble, Thomas creates a challenging environment – where former teen actors are expected to reprise ten-year-old roles while also standing competing with a charismatic star like Kristen Bell. Long-time fans will, of course, appreciate the effort, but as a standalone movie, performances are noticeably uneven.

Fortunately, the main cast shines in revisiting their classic roles – especially Bell who brings more complexity, depth, and dimension to Veronica than ever before. Considering the film is a continuation of the TV series, limited by years worth of development, Bell isn’t able to outright redefine Veronica as much as she might have liked but there are a number of subtle evolutions to the character that will be interesting to fans – while also ensuring that she’s dynamic enough for outsiders to become invested in the moment-to-moment drama.

Other fan-favorites return as well. Veronica’s father, Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni) is, once again, one of the best parts of the “Veronica Mars” cast and it’s especially entertaining to see him attempt to manage this older and more mature version of his daughter. Given the circumstances, Logan Echolls gets a significant amount of screen time – with a good-natured variation of the former troublemaker for Jason Dohring to explore – with side kicks like Dick Casablancas (Ryan Hansen) and Cindy “Mac” Mackenzie (Tina Majorino), among others, pumping a steady stream of comedy relief into the mix.

Ultimately, “Veronica Mars” is a win-win for fans and filmmakers alike and a fitting sendoff to the beloved series. Though, for non-Veronica Mars watchers, the film is likely to be, at times, confusing and alienating, dedicating a significant chunk of the runtime to jokes and references that newcomers will not understand at all, while offering only an average murder mystery adventure in return. Moviegoers who never watched Veronica Mars but are interested in learning what all the fuss was about are better off starting at the beginning of the series. After all, why would you want to begin a great book by reading the epilogue?