By Scott Harvey
“I guess you could say I’m a marshmallow.”
To the non-initiated, this remark by the titular heroine of Veronica Mars in the film’s opening sequence might seem strange. But to the millions who followed the teenaged sleuth for three years through the perils of Neptune High School and beyond, it’s a long awaited reward.
Indeed, this film would not exist if not for the “marshmallows,” the obsessively devoted fans of the cult TV series that ran from 2004-2007 on UPN/WB (of which the author of this review is one). A critical success but never quite a popular one, Veronica Mars was cancelled after just three seasons to the chagrin of its loyal following.
But after six years of begging writer-creator Rob Thomas, the dream of a Veronica Mars movie became a reality when Thomas and the cast started a Kickstarter campaign last year to raise money for the movie. They reached their target goal in less than two days and the result is this low-budget, cameo-riddled, in-joke filled film designed specifically to please the fans who made it happen.
It’s been 10 years since Veronica (Kristen Bell) graduated from Neptune High, and as the film opens, we see her on the verge of landing a huge new job as a corporate lawyer in New York, with her devoted boyfriend Piz (Chris Lowell, doing an admirable job as the series’ most reviled character) by her side. But, of course, she’s drawn back to Neptune when old flame Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) finds himself accused of murdering his girlfriend yet again (this guy has worse luck with fictional women than Michael Douglas) and calls Veronica to help him get to the bottom of the case. And as it happens, it’s also time for Veronica’s ten year high school reunion, which means reuniting with friends (Percy Daggs and Tina Majorino as the lovable Wallace and Mac) and enemies (Amanda Noret as the scheming Madison) alike.
Bell, in the role that made her famous, is so in her element that it almost feels like she’s playing herself. She effortlessly channels the sharp-tongued sassiness that made Veronica such an appealing character 10 years ago.
The supporting cast, largely made up of the show’s original stars, is equally effective, with Enrico Colantoni best of all as Keith, Veronica’s wonderfully loving dad.
However, the mystery at the heart of this film is considerably less interesting than it might have been were it stretched out over the course of 22 episodes. And the movie feels overstuffed with supporting characters and subplots, though as a fan of the show, I didn’t mind so much. But Rob Thomas’s writing hasn’t aged a day, and the witty, fast-paced dialogue, paired with the energy of the cast, carries this movie a long way.
It’s hard to say, as a massive fan of the show, whether those unfamiliar with Veronica Mars will enjoy this movie, or see it as the smartly written but ultimately forgettable drama it is under the surface. For me, Veronica Mars was a brief but satisfying revival of one of my all-time favorite shows.
My recommendation: catch up with the show before you see this film. Then you’ll appreciate it for the great fun that it is.