It’s not going to be playing in Cole Cinema any time soon, but I felt a little duty bound to do a review of Veronica Mars for three reasons. One, it’s gotten a huge amount of attention for being the largest campaign in Kickstarter history and probably the first ever fan-funded reboot of a defunct franchise. Two, it’s available for streaming online right now for a $5.99 rental fee, so it’s not like I’m tempting you with an impossible scenario should this review persuade you to give it a look-sy. And three, Veronica Mars is my favoritest, favoritest TV show of all time, so it would be a waste if I didn’t abuse my position of journalistic power to push my own agenda. That being said, I will try to be as fair as possible about judging the movie on its own merits, and not trying to push you guys into watching Veronica Mars the TV show, available right now for free streaming on Amazon Prime (OK, I won’t push much).
Veronica Mars revisits the story of a teen detective (I know, but bear with me here), now 28 years old and living in New York City with her boyfriend, and about to take her bar exam. The events at the end of the TV show’s last season led Veronica to leave her hometown of Neptune, California, a town where the haves and the have-nots are always on a deadly collision course and where the sheriff’s department’s incompetence has only exacerbated the problem since the time when Veronica’s dad Keith was ousted as acting sheriff. She has been gone for ten years, and not worked a case since. However, when her ex-boyfriend is accused of murdering a pop star and former high school classmate, Veronica returns to Neptune to help, and finds herself dragged into solving the case.
To begin, if I’m really being honest here, non-fans are not going to enjoy this movie.
There, I said it.
Cinematographically, the movie looks like a TV show. The filming isn’t very immersive for a two-hour big screen release. It makes an attempt at exposition at the beginning that is so sad, it makes me cry. I understand that the movie is trying to be succinct. It doesn’t want to rehash the plot of the show for newcomers, it wants to tell a new story. But the exposition emphasizes the noir-y style of voiceover dialogue that the TV show was well-known for over giving important background. They leave out huge chunks of info that would be necessary to understand characters’ behaviors and relevance to the movie. And I just know the reason they did that was so that the TV show wouldn’t be ruined for non-fans who took an interest in the movie. Well that’s great, but I’m not sure how much interest a movie can generate for non-fans who are sitting there going, “What? Is that important? How does she know that guy?”
“How does she know that guy?” is a good transition into the movie’s next fatal flaw. Characters without purpose. The truth is that only a handful of the actors in the movie are necessary to the plot. Most of the other characters have good dialogue with Veronica, or act as a sounding board as she pieces together the mystery, but they are truly non-essential, and if you’ve never seen the TV show, these brief interactions with character after character must feel like loose end after loose end. The problem is that this wouldn’t be a Veronica Mars movie without characters like her best friends Mac and Wallace, or valley girl nightmare Madison Sinclair, who are painfully under-utilized here.
Ugh, I’m losing you guys, I can feel it. Let me talk about the one part of this movie that really saves it. Thankfully, it’s the mystery. What initially comes off as a very superficial murder mystery turns into a dark and complex web of problems. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’m afraid I must leave it at that.
Overall, the Veronica Mars movie is really not movie-worthy on its own merits, as a theatrical release should be. It has trouble deciding if it’s a movie just for fans or if it should seek out a wider audience, and ultimately fails to be a complete, satisfying separate entity outside of the TV show. That being said, creator Rob Thomas and the rest have made something pretty clear, which I’m increasingly inclined to believe: they did it for us. If this movie is just for the fans, they have absolutely positively succeeded.
Ok, what I said before about fair-minded? Forget it. I’m going in.
I adored the movie. I adored it a million, billion percent, because it gave me everything that I wanted. I saw the characters I loved, I heard the familiar wit of my beloved girl detective, I saw a gritty mystery unfold before me. The only thing that disappoints me about Veronica from a fan point-of-view is that it doesn’t do justice to the true, incandescent brilliance of the series for newcomers. It lacks the complexity of Veronica’s relationship with her father and the genius of her sleuthing skills, it lacks the light-hearted humor intermixed with the darkness of murder, racism, bullying, sexual assault, the crimes of the rich, and the sins of bad parents that were the heart of the series. It lacks the depth of colorful characters, all complex and interesting and integral. And most of all, it doesn’t do justice to Veronica Mars, TV’s greatest heroine.
And I absolutely mean that.
Why do we love Veronica? I can’t fully explain, I’m way over-budget here on my word count. But Veronica’s smart, and she’s tough and she’s full of snark and charm. Veronica never fails to impress, to make us fall in love with her. Most of all, in that vessel of smart and tough and snark and charm, we see a little bit of ourselves, and we all want to live vicariously through her. There’s a Veronica Mars in all of us.
I can’t help myself….WATCH THE TV SHOW!!!!!
The Veronica Mars movie and Veronica Mars: The Complete Series are available now for streaming and digital download. With apologies to my editors for length.