When Vinnie van Lowe meets Veronica Mars on the boardwalk he tells her she aged well. And it’s true. Kristen Bell is just as fresh-faced as she was when she toted a stun gun and spent most of her days rolling her eyes at her hellish classmates, knocking on the doors of intimidating people with her loyal pit bull, Backup, at her side. When Veronica Mars was still on the air, it had some problems with aging, notably its misguided third season. The movie, borne of a Kickstarter campaign, is here to smooth over all the roughness of the final season’s abrupt ending. It’s a love letter to everything that made the series a fun ride including Veronica’s trademark wit and her tendency to jump headfirst into the neo-noir cesspool of Neptune, California.
The city Veronica Mars calls home has always been a bit of a mess. Veronica (in the beginnings of her signature voiceover) promises it’ll be the birthplace of a massive class war. Then there’s the Sheriff’s department, perpetually presided over by some terrible man with the name of Lamb (now it’s Dan Lamb played by Jerry O’Connell). The seediness of this fictional town is only held in check by the efforts of Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni) and his plucky daughter, and Keith is still fighting the good fight when we pick up with him in Neptune.
Veronica on the other hand escaped Neptune after moving to New York to be a lawyer. Her chances of joining a prestigious firm are derailed by a call for help from ex-boyfriend Logan (Jason Dohring) who’s been accused of killing pop- star girlfriend and former high school gossip monger Carrie Bishop/Bonnie DeVille. The movie’s one big nostalgia kick once Veronica’s plane touches down.Veronica Mars has always found charm in its roster of recurring characters who are just as much staples of the show as Veronica’s stun gun and stakeouts. Her ten-year high school reunion sets the stage for some throwbacks to the worst of Neptune High’s student body including Madison Sinclair (Amanda Poret). Gia Goodman (Krysten Ritter) and Luke Haldeman (Sam Huntington) reemerge as cogs in the movie’s mystery machine. Also making appearances are Mars family attorney Cliff (Daran Norris), Deputy Leo (Max Greenfield) and Vinnie van Lowe (Ken Marino). And of course Wallace (Percy Daggs III), Mac (Tina Majorino) and Dick Casablancas (Ryan Hansen) are all back in good form.
Veronica Mars sees Veronica dealing with something of an identity crisis, though it’s not a very compelling one since there’s very little to find exciting about her New York life with Piz (Chris Lowell). Neptune’s not great, but it’s got more going for it than the attorney lifestyle Veronica’s considering in NYC. Apologies to Team Piz, but there was never any way this series was going to be revived in a movie only to make those two endgame, just like there was no way Veronica was going to abandon her investigative drive for a position at Jamie Curtis’ lawfirm. Veronica would probably make a fine lawyer, but it’s not her calling.
Considering the limited time frame the movie does well with its central mystery of finding Carrie’s killer which goes the typical Veronica Mars route of initially making the whole murder feel very frivolous. Everything’s a bit comedic at first from Carrie’s unbalanced number one fan with her crush on Logan to a James Franco cameo before it goes totally dark as a deputy is killed and Keith critically injured trying to blow the whistle on the corrupt Sheriff’s department. Carrie’s murder gets wrapped up but not before Gia Goodman gets shot to death and Veronica, like usual, almost dies herself by saving herself and the day. But while Veronica Mars wouldn’t be Veronica Mars without the investigations at its center, it’s far more focused on the characters it’s picking up with again.
Probably the weakest element of the film was Logan, and it’s not because Logan’s a bad character. I, too, preferred Logan to the well-meaning but undeniably boring Piz, and while Logan’s demons were certainly tiring they were at least something. The movie wants to position him as very changed in the nine years since Veronica last saw him, but Logan was very much…Logan. Except he joined the Navy which seems to be the beginning and end of the transformation the movie’s peddling, and putting Jason Dohring into a uniform (that doesn’t even look good on him, by the way) does not equal character development. Logan did more changing in the three seasons of the show than in the nine years that have passed. He’s still capable of being a real jerk as demonstrated in video of his fights with Carrie, but he’s also always been capable of being decent so moments of kindness and responsibility aren’t as earth-shattering as the movie would like to imagine they are, and it’s not like he’s gotten over his thing about punching people in the face.
There wasn’t enough Wallace in this film, essentially making him more a supporting character than ever happened on the show. Even his time with Veronica was few and far between. Mac popped up more often to use her computer skills to help Veronica out of some tight jams. But it was nice to see them both, looking attractive and put together and generally doing well.
It took awhile for Weevil (Francis Capra) to turn up, but once he did it was worth the wait. Now married with a super cute kid, Weevil finally put the gang life behind him and hasn’t been on his bike since his daughter was born. That is until he tries to help a stranded and tormented Celeste Kane (because what’s Neptune without a Kane?) and gets shot for his efforts. The resulting blame heaped on him by the Sheriff’s department, which includes a planted gun, pushes Weevil back to the PCH’ers.
There’s no escaping Neptune. Veronica tried to do that by leaving, and Weevil did it by staying and getting his act together, but by the film’s end both decided they weren’t going to get out as long as Neptune remained the same. So in their attempts at making things right (Weevil clearing his name and Veronica saving the city from itself) they both went back to their old designations in the Neptune hierarchy.
The movie doesn’t bring anything new to the series or the characters, and that’s a good thing. Fans didn’t hand over their own money to have this film made and see Rob Thomas implode the series and start trying new things. On the contrary what everyone wanted was a callback to the olden days of Neptune’s quirky and morally bankrupt residents, some sweet father-daughter time between Keith and Veronica, Veronica coming out on top in some deadly mystery and for Logan and Veronica to reunite. In this regard Veronica Mars is absolute wish-fulfillment, and that’s exactly why it works, and there’s even room for a sequel, should someone offer to pay for it.
Leave your thoughts in the comments.