Step back scoundrels and unbelievers of Neptune High, because Veronica Mars has made it. She’s got the career in New York and a boyfriend who works for NPR’s Ira Glass. Thanks to her new law degree she knows exactly how to devastate any jerks that come her way and escape culpability. Veronica Mars is the winner at last, so the last thing she cares about is returning for her high school reunion. But like any addict, one particular fix has the power to lure her back to Hell after nine years topside: the voice of Logan Echolls asking help to escape a murder charge.
If you don’t know about Logan Echolls, let me put it this way: at one point in the film Veronica compares a silent car ride with him to the act of swishing whiskey in a glass under your nose without taking a sip. Veronica’s two favorite things in her high school and early college years were solving mysteries and banging Logan Echolls between their frequent break-ups. She begins this film safely ensconced from both those experiences. Will she fall back into old habits? It’s a mystery! But item #1 kicks off the film, so cross your fingers on the second.
As it is, for the last year Veronica (Kristin Bell) has been dating Piz, a friend-turned-boyfriend from her freshman year in college. Their relationship is solid and he gets her as a person, though understanding doesn’t always equate to communicating. With a big-shot lawyer job offer, a relationship, and a future, Veronica’s impulse to step back in the frying pan of investigating skeezy celebrities sounds more than a little self-destructive.
Haha, Veronica being self-destructive! What a laugh. That would never happen. Certainly not enough to fill three seasons of a television show.
In the fictional town of Neptune, California (think Santa Monica meets Newport Beach) minor celebrity Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) has been taking care of his addict girlfriend Bonnie, a hit singer-songwriter. They’ve recently broken up when he gets a text to come to her aide. Whoopsie-daisey, someone gets electrocuted, she’s dead and he’s a murder suspect! Turns out Bonnie is the stage name of a girl that went to high school with both Logan and Veronica…who also went to school with everyone else in this movie. If you think this level of connection sounds implausible, then you clearly have never seen the show, because this isn’t even Logan’s first classmate murder charge.
One of the high points of the film is how much dedicated effort goes into making something for the fans to enjoy, and that means a tall order of callbacks. Not only is the plot reminiscent of Veronica’s first significant mystery, but thanks to her ten year high school reunion the movie is stocked to the brim with cameos and revivals from the most popular and most obscure characters of Neptune. Catchphrases pour like rain; it’s splendid. Toss in some celebrity turns by James Franco and Jamie Lee Curtis, and all those Kickstarter backers got something good for their money.
Murder is the framework of the story, but two relationships take the film’s focus. Unsurprisingly, her cautious dance with her ex Logan is one. To the delight of everyone in the theater I was in last night, Keith Mars was the other. Veronica’s relationship with her sheriff-turned-private eye father was the beating heart of the series and essential to making a Veronica Mars movie. Some of the films genuine surprises came when Enrico Colantoni was on screen, and the father-daughter chemistry is unbeatably charming.
My other favorite returns were Percy Daggs III as best friend Wallace and Tina Majorino as techy side-kick Mac. Providing a counter-narrative to the rich murdering the rich is Francis Capra as Weevil, a formerly violent biker turned proud father and honorable citizen. His subplot happens late in the film, but it stood out to me as the most moving.
So if you’ve never seen the series, will you still like the movie? I have no idea, honestly. But I hope so, because it hit every one of my expectations as a fan. It was well-acted, well-shot, and well-written. At a few points I might have clutched my sweatshirt to my chest in lip-biting anticipation. Although the murder-mystery itself is hardly going to shock audiences with any particular twist, it’s interesting enough to carry the plot. As a general film, I’d give it three stars, but as a groundbreaking adaptation by fans for fans, I give it five stars. So let’s settle on a happy four stars for Veronica Mars. Director Rob Thomas, his crew, the cast and Warner Bros have made something to be proud of.
Thank you for an older, more savory taste of television’s most inspiring teen sleuth. It’s been epic: spanning years and continents, with blood shed and lives ruined. I’m ready for the sequel.