Veronica Mars; a tough talking, smart, feisty high schooler who moonlights as a private detective and about a decade ago had a, moderately, hit TV show. For fans of Miss Mars it all ended a bit abruptly, Veronica was supposed to continue on once she’d left her hometown of Neptune to become an FBI Agent but the powers that be (Executives rather than seedy underworld types) had other ideas and cancelled her.
Over the years creator Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell have said they wanted to give Veronica a proper send-off and so, after a much-publicised Kickstarter campaign, we arrive at the Veronica Mars movie. Time may have passed but it seems old habits die hard for our pint-sized heroine.
Veronica (Kristen Bell) now lives in New York with her boyfriend Piz (Chris Lowell) and is about to embark on a prestigious law career. But then she sees the news that back in Neptune her former flame Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) is the prime suspect in the murder of his pop-star girlfriend. Veronica never could turn down a friend in need so she jumps on a plane, reconnects with her PI father, Keith (Enrico Calantoni), hangs out with old friends Mac (Tina Majorino) and Wallace (Percy Daggs III) and sets about clearing Logan’s name. The only thing is, in this town, once you unspool one mystery you invariably uncover something dirtier.
Veronica Mars, the movie, tries to pertain to being for everyone, newcomers and fans alike. This is a lie. Despite an opening montage and monologue, that covers all the key bases from the TV show, the film is firmly one for the fans. In truth that’s probably only fair, as it was the fans that funded it through the Kickstarter campaign so they should be the key demographic.
The problem is that in movie format Veronica Mars is utterly indistinguishable from her TV origins. Yes all the troupes are there; the sassy dialogue, the outsider beating the system, the friends rallying around each other, it’s all very Buffy The Vampire Slayer (something the show wore on its sleeve with pride, even going so far as to cast Joss Whedon in a cameo at one point). But for a movie version you want a little more, even if it’s just to up the ante with a bigger cast than one remarkably similar to that previously seen in the TV show.
It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that it’s hard to care about and invest in. If you were a fan of the TV show you’ll feel you’ve seen it all before but when the cast were younger and prettier and if you’re not a fan you’ll be left wondering who all these people are.
As with the show, Veronica Mars is at her best when sparring with her equally sarcastic dad Keith. Bell and Calantoni have a wonderful on-screen chemistry but here we’re only ever given two or three scenes of solid Mars magic before it’s left behind in favour of a predictably twisty-turny plot that promises much but delivers little. If anything the most unforgivable thing here is that the end seems to suggest that the whole point in this film adventure was nothing more than to either spark a sequel, presumably with a bigger budget, or fuel inject a new era for the TV show.
Hardcore fans will enjoy seeing the band put back together but on this evidence the Veronica Mars case file should probably be marked ‘Closed’.