Friday, April 11, 2014

Film Review: Veronica Mars

Most people know about the Kickstarter phenomenon that is the Veronica Mars movie.  The low-rated TV show with a cult following was so beloved by the creators and fans alike that they raised money on the Internet to fund a full length feature film in only a few hours.

So was it worth the wait.

For any Veronica Mars fan, like myself, the answer is a resounding "Yes!"

For those who are not fans of the show will still find a fine and enjoyable mystery.

The biggest disadvantage of movie like this is that it relies heavily on back story from series for texture and context.  For those unfamiliar, Veronica (Kristen Bell) lived in city of haves and have-nots called Neptune.  She worked as an assistant to her father, private investigator and former sheriff Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni).  She was a social outcast from the popular rich kids, including the rage-addicted Logan (Jason Dohring).  Despite this, Logan and Veronica begin an on-again-off-again relationship until she left Neptune to pursue a law degree.  The movie begins with Veronica interviewing for a prestigious New York law firm with her college boyfriend Piz (Chris Lowell) by her side.  But then she finds out that Logan has been charged with murder he calls her for help.

Veronica Mars works best when we see our heroine get reluctantly pulled deeper and deeper into the mystery.  It is also a lot of fun because, as with the TV show, we are given a front row seat to Veronica's thoughts with her witty and aserbic narration.  It also works well as a metaphor for people who have moved on from their high school days, but still have painful scars from their teen years.  The things that happen to us during that time shape so much of our adult personality and lives, and Veronica Mars captures that very well.

This is one of Bell's best performances for a while.  She has been languishing in terrible film after terrible film (e.g. When in Rome, The Lifeguard), so it is nice to find here in a role that highlights her charisma and talent.  Her chemistry with Colantoni and Dohring is as vibrant as ever.  Colantoni brings his trademark fatherly concern masked by sharp humor.   Dohring has a very interesting challenge to play as Logan someone who you can simeltaneously believe has grown and matured but could still possibly be a vicious killer.

There are two main problems with the movie.  The first is that it bases its structure on the television script format.  There are B-stories along with the A-story that never completley connect to the main mystery.  While this is a staple in an ongoing tv show, in a feature film it takes up valuable real estate.  Keith has his own adventure investigating corruption in Neptune, but it feels more like a set up for another movie than an important part of the main movie.

The second problem is it hits its social commentary a little too hard.  I get the feeling that a lot of the script ideas were hammered out in 2011 around the whole Occupy Wall Street movement.  A lot of the themes of that time factor heavily into the B-story,  But rather than feeling relevent, it feels like the writers are holding onto an old zeitgeist.

For fans of the show, there are a lot of callbacks to the series that play important plot points and fun, nostalgiac moments.  If you are not a fan, these moments will not resonate very heavily, but writer/director Rob Thomas cannily made these moments accessible enough to the uninitiated.  For those who don't know anything about the show, there is still a very enjoyable whodonit that plays out on screen.

The movie is ripe for a sequel.  I don't know if Thomas can pull another Kickstarter rabbit out of his hat, but I would be eager to see the next one.

4 out of 5 stars

No comments:

Post a Comment