SXSW Film: Veronica Mars

It’s no mystery that “Veronica Mars” loves its fans. Without them, the new movie would not have been possible. The fans helped make history by funding a Kickstarter campaign to bring their beloved TV show to the big screen almost 7 years after the last episode aired in 2007. Now the big question is was the wait and the campaign worth it? For fans, the film plays like a greatest hits album, featuring plenty of Easter eggs, special cameos and even specific nods to the fanbase. It’s a big thank you. A love letter. And the die-hard marshmallows (aka a Veronica Mars fan) are going to be in heaven. New viewers, however, might be a little perplexed and many of the references and quips might fall a little flat on the uninitiated. veronica mars

“Veronica Mars: the Movie” is set 10 years after her high high school graduation, aka reunion time. In high school, Veronica (Kristen Bell)  was a bit of an outsider. She was revered by some, yet feared by many. Her true friends were few and far between. So returning to Neptune, Calif., a place that was a bit of a hell for her, is one of the last things she wants to do. She has left her old life as far behind her as possible. While many thought the high school sleuth would have joined the FBI after graduating college, she instead went across the county to law school in New York City. After a 2-minute recap of the television show and the last 10 years of her life, Veronica explains that her detective days ruined more relationships than it saved.

Veronica says of her investigative work: “That was the old me. The new me? People say I’m a marshmallow.” Of course, “Veronica – the lawyer isn’t meant to be and not what fans signed up for. And being the “new Veronica” is easier said than done. Solving crime is like a drug for Veronica, so when an old flame gets accused of murder (again), Veronica rushes home to Neptune to help. Conveniently, this happens to coincide with the same weekend as her high school reunion, which gives the film plenty of time to revisit favorite characters and catch fans up on what happened to them. I won’t ruin the mystery of the whodunnit, but I will say that there’s plenty of shock and dirty laundry to be aired in true “Veronica Mars” fashion. The conclusion offers a satisfying resolution that leaves the mystery of Veronica Mars’ future answered, while still teasing that there’s plenty of work fo her still to do.

All the returning actors step comfortably back into their roles. The romantic tension between Logan (Jason Dohring) and Veronica is ever present. Their first on screen film encounter is somehow sassy, awkward and sexy all at the same time. There’s also one of my favorite relationships, the one Veronica had with her father. This reunion was loving and adorable. I don’t think they had to reach very far inside themselves to summon up the acting response. Their reunion scene was so natural and real that I think this was just as much a loving reunion between Veronica and Keith Mars as it was a loving reunion between Kristen Bell and Enrico Colantoni.

Veronica Mars was always known for her sassy one liners and pop culture references. For the film, the references are updated to reflect modern times and more importantly, her sass is back and as strong as ever. There is a great middle finger chap stick moment which is totally worth borrowing from the film to use in real life. The show was also known for its great guest stars and in the film, guest stars and cameos are out in spades. Alejandro Escovedo helps integrate the TV show’s theme song in a nice busking scene, Jamie Lee Curtis plays a New York bigwig and James Franco even appears as himself (stick around during the credits for more from him).

As the theme song goes “a long time ago, we used to be friends,” but while the show was a long time ago, it feels like no time has passed. Bell and her friends in the cast and the crew are so natural at returning to this story. This is a fun return with plenty of laughs, shock and drama to keep things interesting. Welcome back, Veronica. For a self-proclaimed social outcast, you sure are well-loved and will continue to be loved by your fans. Just like you can’t quit being a detective, we can’t quit you.

“Veronica Mars” premiered Saturday, March 8 at SXSW, but it will be released in select theaters on Friday, March 14.

About Bethany Smith