As a fan of the Veronica Mars TV series, I think Rob Thomas – and his 91+ thousands of Kickstarter financiers – have pulled something almost as miraculous as raising 5.7 million dollars through crowdfunding – he’s made a movie continuation of Veronica Mars’ story that will please fans and newcomers about equally.
Full disclosure: I am a Marshmallow – I loved the series, own the DVDs and contributed to the Kickstarter campaign (I’ve got the t-shirt and the PDF of the shooting script to prove it). That said, I had some doubts as to Thomas’ ability to move Veronica (Kristen Bell) to the big screen – it is his feature film debut as a director, after all.
I had nothing to worry about.
Veronica Mars is smart, sharp and convincing takes it Nancy Drew meets Philip Marlowe attitude up a notch. The story, by Thomas and his fellow VM writer Diane Ruggerio, puts Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) under suspicion for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, rock star Bonnie Deville – a.k.a. fellow Neptune High alumna Carrie Bishop (Andrea Estella). There’s a leaked video that is glaringly and almost hilariously misinterpreted (listen closely – it’s not the threat that everyone is making it out to be).
This is just our first look at the skewed world of Veronica Mars…
The film opens with a two-minute introduction of who Veronica is, nicely encapsulating the heart of the TV series and setting up her noirish narration. From there, we cut to Veronica being interviewed for a position with prestigious New York law firm Truman Mann. We also see her meeting her boyfriend Stosh ‘Piz’ Piznowski (Chris Lowell) at his place of work (where she sees Carrie’s death being covered on TV).
When Logan calls her and asks for help, she jets back to Neptune to ‘help him weed out the shysters’ from lawyers seeking to represent him. This ties into a reunion with her closest high school friends, Wallace Fennel (Percy Daggs III) and Mac (Tina Majorino) – which in turns leads her to being shanghaied to her class’ 10-year reunion. Which, in turns to encounters with more of the cast of the TV series in roles large and small – and plays a part in the mystery.
Virtually all aspects of the series – the mystery, the bad boy boyfriend, the friends, frenemies and enemies, the romance, the corrupt police department, the venetian blinds (all we need for the movie to be full blown noir is Dutch angles) – are there. The banter is witty; the father/daughter relationship (one of the best ever on TV) between Veronica and Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni) is sublime; the action (brief and to the point), and Veronica’s seemingly endless resourcefulness is, well, seemingly endless.
Besides the characters mentioned, we also get to see how other characters have grown and changed (or not – Eli ‘Weevil’ Navarro is the most changed (in ways that are truly delightful); Dick Casablancas (Ryan Hansen) is the least. There are numerous cameos – Jamie Lee Curtis as Veronica’s would-be employer; James Franco as James Franco (niftily brought into play, too); Martin Starr (as the guy who was skeevy in high school, but sold drugs so he was sort of popular with a certain crowd); The Middle’s Eden Sher among them.
The mystery is well thought out and the solution reached in the most circuitous manner possible (a hallmark of both noir movies and the Veronica Mars series. It requires Veronica to learn about events that transpired after she left Neptune – and shows that some things just never change.
Jerry O’Connell is terrific as the politically expedient, easily bought Sheriff Dan Lamb (better looking than his brother, the former sheriff, but just about as bright); Ken Marino is hilarious as lowlife former PI turned celebrity video stalker, Vinnie Van Lowe; Gabby Hoffman is just off the wall enough as suspect Ruby Jetson, and list goes on.
There’s something special happening here, completely apart from the way the film was financed. With Veronica Mars, Rob Thomas, Kristen Bell and company have produced a top flight movie. If you were a fan of the show, you’ve probably already seen it. If you weren’t, you will find much to love in it.
Final Grade: A+
Photos courtesy of Warner Brothers