078 – Veronica Mars (2014)

veronica mars

Veronica Mars (the tv show) debuted in 2004. The series starred Kristen Bell as the titular junior private investigator, living in a small California community beset with a disturbingly high number of violent crimes. Veronica spent three seasons- I mean years, solving these mysterious breaches of the law before being cancelled- I mean moving away from the surprisingly seedy Neptune. The fans of Veronica Mars never got over the network’s injustice (something I can identify with; I’m still waiting for my Teen Angel movie), and like manna from heaven creator Rob Thomas bestowed upon them the chance to see a continuation in the form of a kickstarted movie. Veronica Mars is that movie.

The film picks up about ten years later with Veronica living in New York City with her long time boyfriend “Pizz” (Chris Lowell, who is far less charismatic in this role than he is on Fox’s Enlisted). Soon enough Veronica is drawn back to Neptune by the death of a former classmate – a crime her old flame Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) is taking the blame for.

The early scenes set in New York set off the string of cameos that never stops throughout the movie’s runtime. Jamie Lee Curtis and Ira Glass (yes, that Ira Glass) both appear within the first ten minutes and they are joined by Jerry O’Connell, Justin Long, Martin Starr, Dax Shepard, the TMZ guys, pretty much anyone who ever appeared on the television show and went on to have any notoriety, and one very interesting surprise that I won’t spoil here (it makes sense though).

All of this spectacle is part of the problem with the Veronica Mars movie. Between the huge cast and the extended exposition dumps, it feels more like a 100 minute catchup, rather than a movie. The central mystery is interesting enough, but even it – like the rest of the movie – is based on so much pre-determined history that is not present in the film itself.

Having said all of that, I enjoyed the movie quite a bit. And I’m not even a huge Mars-head. I’ve seen the first season, which really is a triumph in long form serialized storytelling, but the show did not manage to keep my attention after that point. Regardless, there is an ease to Bell’s character interactions in this movie – between Veronica and Logan, between Veronica and her father (masterfully portrayed by Enrico Colantoni), between Veronica and her various friends and enemies – that makes it easy to get sucked into what follows. The backstory may be inscrutable to the uninitiated, but there is enough in the feature itself to pull a casual viewer along for the ride.

In the end, the movie does a lot of work to re-establish an old status quo. It is like the fourth season of Arrested Development in that way. Much like the other resurrection though, the question becomes whether Veronica Mars will ever have the opportunity to do anything  with that status quo again. And if not, was it all worth it? The millions of dollars raised? The time spent? The download errors? I have a feeling I know how the die-hard fans would answer.

Veronica Mars is a very interesting experiment (and perhaps a novelty of sorts). Any measure of its true success must include analysis of its legacy. It is too soon to tell on that front, but in terms of being entertained, I certainly was. I would support further continuation of the Mars-verse. Not financially of course, but emotionally? Spiritually? Absolutely.

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