Veronica Mars (PG-13)
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This is based on the TV series Veronica Mars, which ran from 2004-07. For its three seasons, the show was constantly on the bubble; in spite of being adored by critics and deeply loyal fans (or "Marshmallows"), it never got great ratings, so the fact that it was actually renewed twice was kind of a miracle. But all good things must end... and yet, this is one of those shows whose fans can't quite accept ending. So there was always talk of an eventual revival, especially considering that the show ended on a cliffhanger. And then, in 2013, the show's creator, Rob Thomas, launched a Kickstarter campaign. His goal was to reach $2 million in 30 days, but that wasn't just to help finance the production, but to prove to Warner Bros. that the show's following was devoted enough to warrant making the movie. The goal was reached in about ten hours, which is obviously pretty freaking amazing. By the end of the campaign, they had raised $5.7 million. (Sadly, I had no money and so I couldn't donate anything at all, but I would've if I could've.) The movie opened in a limited number of theaters, and VOD, on March 14, 2014. Of course, there was zero chance I'd get to see it in a theater, so as usual, I had to wait for the DVD... which I watched on March 14, 2015.
It's set ten years after Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) graduated high school (which means nine years after the series ended). A major cliffhanger from the series finale isn't addressed at all in the film, but I don't really mind. It just begins with Veronica doing a voiceover that explains the few aspects of the series that would be important to know, in case anyone watching the movie hadn't actually seen the show. And there's nothing too exposition-y or out of place about this, because after all, the show and the movie both utilize the time honored "private eye monologue" trope. Anyway... Veronica is now living in New York City, where she's interviewing for a job at a prestigious law firm (one of her interviewers is played by Jamie Lee Curtis), and she's in a relationship with Piz. So everything's good, but then Logan's rock star girlfriend, Bonnie DeVille, gets murdered, and Logan is the only suspect. So he calls Veronica to ask for help, even though they haven't spoken in nine years. She flies back to her hometown of Neptune, CA (quite possibly the sunniest location ever for a film noir), but she's only supposed to be there for a day. Just to help him interview prospective lawyers to represent him. But of course, she ends up staying longer and going back to her old P.I. ways, for the first time since she left town all those years ago. (There is a central theme running throughout the film of her being addicted to private investigation, an old habit that she doesn't want to return to, but it's a struggle we know she'll lose, because it's what she's destined for.) Of course, in addition to investigating the murder, Veronica gets to spend a bit of time with her father, Keith, who's still running Mars Investigations.
Meanwhile, there's a 10-year class reunion, which is a good excuse to bring back plenty of characters from the show. So of course Veronica reconnects with her old friends Wallace and Mac, and we get to know what they're up to these days. And Gia Goodman (Krysten Ritter) is quite important to the plot. Also we get to see Eli ("Weevil"), who has changed quite a bit. He actually has what could be a major subplot in the movie, but it's left unresolved (and might make for a good sequel, if one ever gets made). Another major problem Veronica faces is that the current sheriff of Neptune, Dan Lamb (Jerry O'Connell), is running a thoroughly corrupt police department. (That's another thing that would obviously be a big part of any potential sequel.) And... I should probably mention some other characters, like Ruby Jetson (Gaby Hoffmann), a stalkery fan of Bonnie DeVille. And James Franco appears as himself. He provides some help with Veronica's investigation, as does his assistant, Penny (Eden Sher). And I guess that's all the people I want to mention.
I don't want to reveal any more of the plot, specifics of the investigation, etc. But I don't consider it particularly a spoiler to say that Veronica does eventually prove that Logan is innocent, and the real killer is caught. And... in the end she decides to stay in Neptune and work full time as a P.I. And any other important developments that I'm avoiding spoiling, I suppose I'll spoil if there ever is a sequel. As for my impression of the movie... well, I liked it. A lot. Not as much as I loved the series, but it was still pretty damn good. It's always great to see Veronica (and to hear her narration), because she's awesome. And as usual, the mystery is decent, and there's good humor and drama and whatever else you could reasonably ask for. I also really enjoyed all the little callbacks to things from the show, like a street musician (Alejandro Escovedo) playing the show's theme song at one point; and even references to things outside of the show that fans may have been aware of, such as when one character mentions he thought he'd heard Veronica was in the FBI (which had been a rumored plot point for a possible revival, right after the show ended). Oh, and it was really funny to see Dax Shepard in a cameo, since he's married to Kristen Bell in real life. And it was really weird to see Max Greenfield reprise his role as Leo, now that I'm so used to him playing Schmidt on New Girl. Anyway... I hope I'm not forgetting anything else I might have wanted to mention, but... I'm just really glad to have finally seen the movie, and I really hope there will be a sequel someday. (Seriously, it's pretty neat how the movie kind of has the same format as the show, in the sense that Logan's case is kind of a "case of the week," but there's other stuff going on that seems secondary, but could theoretically be building to a larger story arc.)
Note: I re-watched the movie in July 2019, on the day that a new season of Veronica Mars was originally scheduled to premiere on Hulu. (It actually was released a week early, but I still wanted to wait.) Anyway, upon this second viewing, I decided to bump up my original rating for four and a half smileys to one and a half hearts.