As one of the 91,585 backers for the Veronica Mars Kickstarter, I am most definitely a fan. I heard about the Kickstarter at SXSW when it first launched, and immediately pledged from my phone. In the months leading up to this weekend, I re-watched the entire series. Yesterday, the film was finally released — and on my birthday, no less! Like almost every other Veronica Mars fan at the theater last night, I wore my Kickstarter t-shirt. Many of the reviews of the film so far, including Witney’s review here at Nerdist, have stated that this is a movie for the fans, and they’re not wrong. But is that really such a bad thing?
The film picks up nine years after the events of Season 3, with Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) poised to accept her very first law firm job in New York. She’s apparently given up her investigative ways — too many people got hurt. And yet, in typical Veronica fashion, she takes off for her hometown of Neptune, CA when she hears that her ex-boyfriend Logan Echols (Jason Dohring) has been accused of murdering his pop star girlfriend, Bonnie DeVille. (Viewers of the show will remember Bonnie DeVille as Carrie Bishop, one of Veronica’s classmates during the series originally played by Leighton Meester.) She leaves behind her current boyfriend, Stosh “Piz” Piznarski (Chris Lowell), forever the punching bag, and stalls her new job.
Neptune appears to be unchanged. The class war between the haves and the have-nots is bigger than ever, the bumbling cops are still corrupt (including a fairly lackluster Jerry O’Connell as the new Sheriff Lamb), and Veronica’s father, Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni), is still a much more competent private investigator. As Veronica tries to help Logan put together the pieces of Bonnie’s murder, she finds herself falling back into familiar patterns.
Coincidentally (wink), the 10-year reunion of Neptune High is just around the corner, which means plenty of fan favorites return. Veronica’s best friends Wallace (Percy Daggs III) and Mac (Tina Majorino) are back, along with the guy everybody loves to hate, Dick Casablancas (Ryan Hansen), but the reunions don’t stop there. We get bits of screen time from key series players like Eli “Weevil” Navarro (Francis Capra) and Vinnie Van Lowe (Ken Marino) to smaller characters due for their own time in the sun.
Though many Veronica Mars fans have probably seen the film by now, I still don’t want to give too much away. I will say that the plot has all the core elements we’ve come to expect from Veronica Mars: a murder mystery, possible conspiracy, red herrings, a tumultuous love triangle, an action-packed finale, and plenty of quippy one liners. (So. many. great. jokes.)
‘Shippers of Veronica and Logan or Veronica and Piz will have plenty of drama to sort through… and the film thankfully doesn’t let Veronica off the hook regarding the way she sometimes treats people. Our feisty heroine is an incredible woman, but she sometimes loses track of other people’s feelings in her pursuit of the truth. And of course, her relationship with her father is as perfect as ever. So perfect, in fact, that I wish we’d seen more of Keith.
Overall, Veronica Mars feels like a condensed season of the show. If you were to add more story to some of the smaller details and fleshed out a few the relationships at the center of the mystery, you’d have the arc of a season. That’s both good and bad. It was almost exactly what I wanted to see, from returning characters and individual jokes, to all the “in” jokes for fans of the show. (It has so many of those jokes that I can’t see too many non-fans enjoying the experience quite as much as my friends and I did.) It also left me wanting more, which is, again, what I was hoping for. I’d love to see Rob Thomas make another season, another movie, that gets back to the core relationships and develops its characters even further.
Is this a fan service film? Most definitely. Does that bother me? Not in the slightest. I agree with Witney that the production value was lacking, even for a low budget film, and there were definitely a few missteps along the way. The beginning dragged, mostly due to the necessary back story and set-up. But as soon as you hear that oh-so-familiar theme song, the whole thing locks into place.
Rob Thomas has said in interviews that he set out to make a movie for the fans. That’s what this movie is. It is entirely for the fans, and I loved almost every minute of it. More than anything, I want this film to be a success so there can be more Veronica Mars, whether it’s a film or a new series (Netflix, anyone?). Maybe now that we’ve got our fix of fan moments, he’ll have more room to shake things up and help Veronica Mars evolve into a new, even better story.
Have you seen the film? Want to talk spoilers? Find me on Twitter @RachelHeine.