Veronica Mars is based on the critically acclaimed but underwatched TV show of the same name, and (in)famously used Kickstarter to achieve production momentum. The film, like the series, stars Veronica (Kristen Bell), as a budding private investigator and revolves around the human drama her sleuthing causes in her social circle.
In the film, Veronica is searching for her first job in New York City after obtaining her law degree. We learn she gave up her PI gig after transferring to Stanford. Her 10 year high school reunion coincides with her former beau, Logan (Justin Dohring), once again accused of murder. The victim is also a former classmate, and Veronica returns to her hometown to help, as well as confront the demons in her past.
The easiest way to praise Veronica Mars is to enumerate all the things it doesn’t do. Rob Thomas, the show’s creator and director of the film, rightly chooses to have this story pick up enough years after the show to allow the actors and characters to age, and not overcomplicate it with too much continuity. Casual fans who haven’t revisited the series since it aired, or those with minimal exposure will be able to follow along, they just might be absent the reflexive excitement fans experience when a familiar face comes into frame.
A word of caution, however: like most murder investigations, there is a lot of talk about past events and relationships between the characters. This may give new viewers the sense that these were events that should be familiar from the show, but they are actually invented whole cloth for the film, which does a fine job of explaining everything you need to know.
The light neo-noir style that permeated the show is retained, as well as the washed out Southern California backdrops, and wry sense of humor, which gives a nice sense of continuity to current and future bingewatchers. It’s unfair to knock the production on budgetary grounds, but the film is smart about its location choices, giving a realistic small town feel and reinforcing why Veronica feels trapped there.
Having just seen the first season of the show, I appreciated the way that Thomas was able to construct an engaging mystery over 22 episodes of television while keeping my engagement through each episode’s own mystery. The central plot of the film follows a similar path, and deftly doles out just the right amount of information and red herrings to keep the audience on the verge of untangling the knot. As the plot twists and turns, there are well-executed moments of levity sprinkled throughout, including fun cameos, subtle and not-so-subtle references to technological shifts in the last 7 years (smartphones!), and even meta references to the production itself.
Veronica Mars will delight fans of all stripes, and is good enough to be worth seeking out for non-fans as well, so don’t hesitate to take a marshmallow and pass it along.