Saturday, March 15, 2014

Film Review: Veronica Mars

"Veronica Mars"  *** (out of ****)

I never caught up with the television series "Veronica Mars" created by Rob Thomas and starring Kristen Bell as a teenage private detective in a Southern California town called Neptune, where corruption is rampant. And that is a bit of a problem when you go to see the feature film adaptation of this underground cult show, which still has an incredibly devoted fan base.

This film version of "Veronica Mars", directed and co-written by Rob Thomas, along with Diane Ruggiero with Bell reprising her role, is almost exclusively for the fans. The movie, if you want to call it that, is more of an extension of the television show. The audience I attended a screening with knew all of the characters, their background story and caught many "in jokes". For them, I am sure seeing this on the big screen was a pleasure, especially since the television show was cancelled after three seasons in 2007. They have waited a long time for this. For them, it is like visiting old friends. For the rest of us, we are playing catch up.

At the very beginning of the movie, Bell does a voice over explaining briefly all of the events of season one of the show. Her father, Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni) was a sheriff in this small town. During an investigation of Veronica's best friend's death, Keith upset the wrong people and was voted out of office. As a result he became a private investigator, along with his daughter. Together they would expose the town's corruption and upset even more people.

Living this type of life was difficult for Veronica and caused her not to have many friends or much of a dating life, though she did date her friend's boyfriend, Logan (Jason Dohring) after her friend's death. Though things between them didn't work out.

Veronica decided to move out of this town and start over again. She has been in a stable relationship with Piz (Chris Lowell), lives in New York, studied law and may be hired by a promising firm. What more could Veronica ask for? She is now an adult. A successful career may lay ahead of her. But, her old life comes knocking back when Logan's girlfriend is found dead in her home. Logan wants Veronica to come back and help him pick a lawyer, since he is the main suspect, though he claims he is innocent.

The rest of the movie deals with Veronica falling back into her old lifestyle. Picking up the pieces of where her life left off. Will things rekindle with Logan? Will she go back to working for her dad as an investigator? Is the town still corrupt? Tune in next week for the answers. "Veronica Mars" is either a pilot episode on film or a season finale. It depends on how familiar you are with the show.

Yet, I find myself interested in the small town and its characters. Veronica Mars is a tough, street smart lady. One character refers to her as Angela Lansbury, a reference to her role in the TV show "Murder She Wrote". While I'm not sure if the younger audience members catch the reference, it is an apt one. This is basically a younger "Murder She Wrote". Veronica is quick witted and fun to listen to and watch. She is always a step ahead of the law and everyone else, figuring out the missing pieces to the puzzle.

Though I have to go back to my original point, "Veronica Mars" doesn't feel like a movie. Director and co-writer Thomas didn't try to expand the base of the show. The devoted fan base will show up but what about the rest of us?

Normally, if you are going to make a feature film based off of a television show, you start at the beginning. "Veronica Mars" should have been season one of the television show. Everything that was mentioned in the opening voice over, should have been the basis of the film. Or at the very lease, incorporate it into the story and then pick up where the show left off. From an outsider's perspective, this would have made more sense.

But the movie is fun to watch. It is like watching a good episode of the show. For fans that will be good enough. If anything I'll admit I am curious now to go back to watch re-runs of the show. No doubt the intention of the movie.

What is also interesting about the movie is the way it came to be. Thomas and Bell started a fundraising campaign called Kickstarter where fans could donate money. And fans didn't disappoint. More than two million dollars was received.