The question of who killed beautiful, popular high school student Lilly Kane seemed, in 2004, a derivative starting place for a television series—at least for this Twin Peaks fan. But the show ultimately was as much a character study as it was a taut and satisfying thriller. Her best friend’s murder transforms Veronica Mars, and the show played tribute to self-reliance and fighting the good fight.
Over the course of three seasons, teen-detective Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) solved murders, rapes, even the occasional animal-napping case. She did it with help from a few friends, while grappling with an on-again, off-again bad-boy relationship. But unlike her TV-character predecessor Buffy Summers, Mars’ only superpowers were sarcasm and sleuthing. Yet Rob Thomas’ show shared some of the best qualities of the Joss Whedon universe—certainly a comparably avid fan base. Thus, a decade later, more than 90,000 fans made Kickstarter history by funding Veronica Mars the movie with approximately $5.7 million.
Cue the Dandy Warhols: Nearly a decade has passed since Veronica fled the racially divided, economically stratified confines of Neptune, Calif., where the 1 percent made her high school years miserable. She’s a Columbia Law School graduate now, embarking on a lucrative career, while dating good boy Stosh 'Piz' Piznarski (Chris Lowell). Her phone rings: It’s the bad-boy ex-boyfriend, Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring). Once upon a time, his movie-star father killed his girlfriend and his mother committed suicide. Now, he’s been accused of murdering his girlfriend (déjà soap opera) and he needs Veronica’s help. “I don’t really do that anymore,” she tells him, setting the framework for the addiction metaphor Mars reiterates throughout the film regarding her past life as a truth-seeker/adrenalin junkie. Sure, you can go home again, but why would you when home is, as one character notes in a Buffy nod, situated on a Hellmouth?
Will newcomers to Veronica Mars enjoy the movie? Maybe. The dialogue retains its hallmark wit, and in medias res is writer/director Thomas’ forté. Hopefully, the film will experience—one last Whedon reference—the Serenity effect and draw new fans to the original show. As for the fans, they receive an overdue reunion with nearly all the show’s original characters. (And if that’s not enough motivation, it’s a movie, so there’s a James Franco cameo as well.)
Veronica’s relationship with her father, private detective Keith Mars—played with quirky emotional range by Enrico Colantoni, is particularly satisfying to revisit. It is in this relationship that the series’ noir qualities—the patter of black humor and double entendre—really shined.
Plotwise, Veronica Mars doesn’t hold up to the intricacy and surprises the show delivered. This final mystery barely makes the cut for a Know What You Did Last Whatever sequel—the young Veronica could have solved it in her sleep. The stakes aren’t high enough if this is truly the last glimpse of the Veronica Mars universe. That’s a big if. The franchise is back with a book series, and sequel talks (yes, please) already are circulating on the interwebs. But if this really is the end? We definitely got what we paid for.
Directed by Rob Thomas
With Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni