Film Review: Veronica Mars

A long time ago, we used to be friends…

Hey there marshmallows! Earlier this week some friends and I went to watch the Veronica Mars movie at the Empire Cinema in Leicester Square. I was introduced to the show after it had ceased airing, back in 2008 by my friends. They told me I would love the show – and they were absolutely right. I raced through all three series in one week and have been eagerly anticipating the film ever since it was announced. In mid -February, we held a VMars marathon to get ourselves ready…

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So, yeah, we were excited. The film was provided a selected release in Empire cinemas across the country and we booked our seats to watch the movie in all it’s big screen glory.

For the uninitiated, familiarise yourself with the TV show here. It’s ok, we’ll wait. Caught up? Great.

So, nine years have passed since the ending of the show. Veronica transferred to Stanford University, completed her degree and has just graduated from law school. She’s being interviewed for jobs at prestigious New York law firms and has reconnected with college boyfriend Piz. News reports surface that an old high school classmate Carrie Bishop – now a famous pop star using the name Bonnie DeVille – has been found dead in her bathtub in Neptune, California, Veronica’s seedy hometown. Bonnie’s boyfriend – and Veronica’s ex – Logan Echolls, has been charged with her suspected murder. He reaches out to Veronica for the first time in nine years to ask for her help in clearing his name. Unable to resist his plea, Veronica puts her job search on hold to return to Neptune, her friends, her PI dad and the life she left behind. Does she still have what it takes and is life as a lawyer in New York really what she wants?

I was really looking forward to the movie and had an absolute blast watching it. The screen was small – maybe 50 people at the most and it was obvious fairly quickly that everyone there was a fan of the show. And the fact that the audience was all fans was what made the movie good and what let it down. As a fan, so much of what I could want was in there – Veronica’s patented snark filled voice-over, Wallace (and Mac) being the voice of common sense, Keith being amazing (obviously) and references galore to the show. The cast was rounded out with dozens of cameos from actors that appeared in the TV show.

The Bonnie DeVille murder mystery had all the usual VMars red herrings, as well as lots of connections back to Veronica’s high school days, making it easy to link the film to its predecessor. I really enjoyed the mystery itself and it played out much like the individual cases within each episode, with Veronica and the audience collecting clues, piecing it all together. I also really enjoyed Veronica’s references to her links with her alcoholic mother (who naturally pales in comparison with uber-Dad Keith Mars) and the idea that she shares with her this addict-side. For her mother it was booze, for Veronica it’s this P.I life in Neptune; a life conducted in the muck with the lowlifes, full of unpredictability, danger and moral grey areas. It was a sign of the character maturing and understanding herself better, as she would have done in the nine years since we saw her last. I liked the sense that we had been growing up alongside Veronica, all this time.

If you look at the movie as an extended episode or as a companion to the TV show, it’s great. It gave fans (mostly) what they wanted, although I think time with major characters and fan favourites was sacrificed for the central mystery which, while I enjoyed it, was a secondary reason for my seeing the film. It was great that it was filled with these in jokes and the things people loved – it was paid for by the fans, after all.

However, if you look at Veronica Mars as a standalone film, well…it doesn’t leave much of an impression. If you came to this totally ignorant of the show (which admittedly is unlikely) you would struggle to make sense of much of the action. There’s too many fleeting characters, no explanation of key relationships and odd tangential story lines that didn’t serve much of a purpose. It makes me wonder whether a movie adaptation was the best thing and whether it should have stayed on the small screen, as some sort of TV special.

To sum up in list form…

Things that were…more on the bogus side:

  • Weevil! 😦
  • Fake Carrie Bishop (Leighton Meester, we missed you!)
  • Lack of lighthearted Veronica/Logan banter
  • Not enough Mac/Wallace/Veronica time

Things I liked:

  • Sheriff Dan Lamb. Jerry O’Connell really did look like he could be Don’s brother
  • Wallace being a basketball coach at the school. It was such a Wallace-esque job choice, looking after others.
  • Gaby Hoffman
  • Piz! (I did not expect this)

Things I LOVED:

  • Lots of fan-pleasing in jokes. References to the proposed fourth season, a busker singing the show’s theme song etc
  • I enjoyed Veronica being a little out of step with PI technology – which ended up playing an important role.
  • Logan’s uniform. Enough said.
  • Dick. Also enough said.
  • Keith/Veronica banter

For all the little bits that didn’t work so well, I did have a truly excellent time watching the movie and loved the opportunity to revisit such a smart, inventive show, with a true hero at it’s centre. It’s good to have you back, Veronica Mars.

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