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Review: The Veronica Mars Movie (from a Mars virgin’s perspective)

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Veronica-Mars

Hi, my name is Stephen and I’m an alcoholic, uh, Veronica Mars newbie. Having never seen an episode of the show, and offered the film to review (for a newcomer’s opinion), I turned to a friend who does love the cancelled series to give me a brief summary of what the show was about. As he so eloquently puts it:

Veronica (Kristen Bell) is a hot lady. In season one her BFF is murdered and she starts investigating on her own ‘cause she’s not just hot, she’s smart and likes to be a sleuth, especially after her dad, a former sheriff, is fired and becomes a PI. So, through high school she solves cases and it’s awesome. And there’s a bad-boy hunk called Logan. But then it got cancelled.

Concise.

I hear in the film she’s moved out of Neptune, California (where the show was set) and she’s a lawyer. And now, nine years later, she returns to Neptune ‘cause Logan (Jason Dohring) has been accused of murder.

With a brief memory of early naughties teen dramas such as The OC and Dawson’s Creek and a love of espionage shows such as Chuck and Alias it sounded like Veronica Mars was some kind of great middle ground show that everyone could love. Pair that with my love of Kickstarter success stories and I went into the movie pretty excited.

After opening with a segment almost akin to a ‘previously on…’ the film (re-)introduces its characters and present day narrative with short catch-up interactions surrounding a school reunion invite that serves both new and returning viewers. The film then launches straight into the murder mystery of Carrie Bishop, a schoolmate of Veronica’s. Unfortunately for her old hometown love interest, Logan, the murder has been pinned on him. Returning to Neptune to lend her legal advice, she falls into old P.I. habits whilst also dealing with coming face to face with her old schoolmates.

The best way to describe The Veronica Mars Movie is that it is, in Mars’ own words, “a farewell tour.” (Poignant, given that fans of the show never got closure following its abrupt cancellation.) Visiting home allows a huge array of old characters to make reappearances in a natural way. Fleshed out, they take the screen for their fifteen seconds, filling Veronica in on what they have been doing for the last nine years, or vice versa, via snappy and genuine dialogue. The huge gap between the series’ end and this film gives director/co-writer, Rob Thomas‘ use of the reunion device validity; the bonus being that the plot moves steadily forward with each varied character adding a new clue or mystery to Veronica’s investigation.

The vast ensemble consists of numerous naughties stars such as Sam Huntington, Martin Starr and Tina Marjorino whose old and familiar faces also aid newcomers to relax into the film. When that nostalgic recognition is paired with the fact that their characters are already much-loved in the Veronica Marsuniverse, whenever things take a turn in the plot newbies feel the resonance of what is happening more than they would if they were watching an original movie with a modern cast. When a major character event takes place, because newcomers know that those characters have existed for years to other viewers they become more real and significant. Equally, for older viewers when something happens to their favourite character from 9 years ago, the fact that this movie might be the final closure of the Veronica Mars universe has a huge emotional impact – which my friend’s tears can attest to.

Another aspect of the film that is appealing is the constant and unashamed namedropping of real-world popular apps, websites and tech. From Instagram to Google Alert to Etsy to the heavy (but not distracting) product placement of Samsung products, Veronica Mars’ investigative techniques feel more genuine than the typical super hi-tech methods that we are used to in recent crime/mystery shows. 

Aside from compelling characters (and not a bad actor in sight), a high production value – that $5.7m budget really stretched, and a cracking soundtrack the movie proves its worth by also touting a genuinely interesting and tightly told murder mystery plot, something too many mainstream crime films forget to have.

In 107 minutes I went from someone who knew nothing about Veronica Mars to someone professing their love of this witty, resilient investigator who has a penchant for classic dialogue (dated terms like “bozo” and “skeezy” will surely elicit a few chuckles) and leads the disorderly bad-ass girl life that we all wanted to have in our high-school days. It seems that The Veronica Mars Movie will be the perfect reunion show for old fans and a great introductory for new ones. Now, if you don’t mind I’m off to comb the internet for an affordable complete series, region 2 box-set.

@sjbowron

The Veronica Mars Movie will be released in select UK cinemas and digital formats on 14th March 2014.

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