Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni, Percy Daggs III, Tina
Majorino, Krysten Ritter, Martin Starr, Chris Lowell, Ryan Hansen, Francis
Capra, Andrea Estella, Jerry O’Connell
Director: Rob Thomas
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.4:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 108 Minutes
Release Date: May 6, 2014
“A teenaged private eye. Trust me. I know how dumb that sounds.”
I never thought I’d get the chance to write about Veronica Mars again…what a happy day for me.
It’s actually a happy time for “marshmallows” (fans of the show) everywhere. When Veronica first debuted on TV a decade ago, she earned a small but fiercely loyal following. Though she slipped under many radars, those who picked up on her found her the centerpiece of a strong, intelligent, witty, and mesmerizing mystery series.
She came back for a second year, which was even greater than the first, but that seemed to be all. It took the work of pleading, dedicated fans to stave the network off of pulling the plug. She came back for one more year, but had changed. The powers that be thought that a few tweaks might make it a more commercially viable show. But instead of gaining new fans, all it did was disappoint the old ones.
And so Veronica Mars, like others, left us way too young, leaving us mourning not only for the greatness it was, but for the greatness it would never achieve.
And yet fan support never dwindled…and when given the chance to raise money to make a follow-up feature film to the short-lived series, fans responded in droves, breaking all kinds of records on the Kickstarter website (it took only 12 hours to raise the needed $2 million), ensuring that Rob Thomas’ stellar creation would live to see the light of another day.
But of course, it wouldn’t have been possible had the cast and creators not been on board. After ten years, all of them were willing to return to Neptune and open up a new chapter in the lives of our favorite haves and have-nots. And for me, seeing them all again was like seeing old friends for the first time in forever.
Veronica (Bell) is, of course, no longer a teen detective (and for those of you who don’t know the back story, may I implore you to check out at least the first two seasons? They are available at the time of this writing for streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime), but a law school graduate who has finally left the bitter memories of Neptune, California behind. She is about to take a high paying position at a prestigious firm in Manhattan.
But old ways never fully die. All it takes is a call from her past. Her one-time boyfriend, Logan Echolls (Dohring), has been accused of murder of their former classmate and current flame Carrie Bishop (Estrella, the only occurrence in this film of a new actor playing an old part).
This coincides with Veronica’s 10 year reunion at Neptune High, which she swore she would never attend, but means she will be back in town with a lot of her old classmates, both friend and foe. And it gives us fans a chance to learn what has been going on with everyone, and the town, in the years since.
I don’t want to give the full rundown here…for those who aren’t yet fans, it would be a boring read, and for those who are, you deserve the chance to catch up with them on your own. Suffice to say, Veronica still has her stalwart dad Keith (Colantoni) on her side, though constantly pleading with her to take the chance she’s been given to get out of that town and not follow in his footsteps. There is Wallace (Daggs), always a good friend in a pinch, and her brilliant hacker pal Mac (Majorino)…small roles this time, as the focus is on the mystery and the strange, sad, funny, but somehow never-quite-ending love story between her and Logan.
If a large part of the film is about catching up with the past, the other large part is looking toward the future, especially for Veronica. She has always dreamed of escaping her past, and stands on the precipice of a totally different future…but choices have to be made that will finally decide her path once and for all.
I have seen the movie twice now, and have tried to put my mindset into that of one who has never experienced Veronica Mars…would this movie mean anything to that person? And the truth is, I just can’t do it. This show, and these characters, mean so much to me that I can’t even begin to imagine not knowing them, or avoid triggered memories from seeing one character or another. In other words, if you are not a marshmallow, I can’t offer you anything useful.
If you are one, however, this modest little movie will be a warm, sunny, slice of nostalgia. Yes, tempered with a little murder and seediness, but hey, it wouldn’t be Neptune without them, right?
I don’t know what the future for this franchise holds…Rob Thomas has already published an excellent novel, The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, which picks up right where this movie leaves off. This movie doesn’t resolve everything, and neither does the book, making me feel like the door has not yet closed on Veronica, Logan, Keith, and everyone else we love, hate, or love to hate in Neptune. And with the fan support that made this impossible project a reality, who can say what might happen next?
Ah, Neptune...despite California settings, this movie runs the gamut of lighting and moods, and this transfer captures everything with detail and color. There are no big action scenes, but all sequences, whether bright or dark, are clear and crisp.
The movie is dialogue-driven and mixed a little quietly, but cleanly. No complaints.
The extras include a making-of documentary called, appropriately enough, “By the Fans”. It's one of the best I've seen, and if you don't understand why this movie is such a big deal, start here. There are four deleted scenes, a gag real, and six “More On-Set Fun” pieces, which are amusing little behind-the-scenes vignettes. My favorite: "Welcome to Mars Investigations".
Every time in the past when I reviewed the television series of Veronica Mars, I pleaded without shame to anyone who would listen to give this show a chance. Now, I do it again. If you need proof of how strongly it connected with fans, just consider that this movie was made with money raised by fan donations. Veronica Mars as a movie is not the place to begin, but neither is it the ending. Hopefully, it’s only the latest “to be continued” for this wonderful and resilient creation by Rob Thomas.