Veronica Mars

Director    Rob Thomas
Starring    Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni, Krysten Ritter, Martin Starr, Jamie Lee Curtis, Gaby Hoffman,
Release    14 MAR (US) 14 MAR (UK)    Certificate 12A
4 stars

Christopher Ratcliff

17th March 2014

"I'm the reason people know that Anne Hathaway has a vagina". This line, delivered by the excellent Ken Marino as returning scumbag Vinnie Van Lowe, is just one of the many beautifully written, needle-sharp moments stippled throughout the titular private detective’s return to Neptune. The other fictional Californian 'hellmouth'.

It’s been seven years (10 in fictional years) since we last saw Veronica on the small screen. Despite my unconditional affection and biannual pilgrimage to the region one box set section of my DVD collection, it still feels like this might be too long a time for a posthumous cinematic chapter to work.

The weight of expectation is rarely ever matched in the execution of a television to film transfer and unfortunately Veronica Mars has more baggage to negotiate then most.

The fundamental mechanics of the show – teenage private detective solves crimes and uncovers corruption in her dangerously cliquey high school – are impossible to recreate a decade later using the same characters, just for the simple fact that everyone’s all grown up. The show’s unique selling point is defunct.

But we wanted this. We really wanted this. To the tune of $5.7m in crowd-sourced, multiple record-breaking funding. As an audience, we basically said "we want Veronica Mars, we don’t care how much baggage she has, we’ll look after her".

You may notice that throughout this review, it becomes muddied as to whether I’m talking about Veronica Mars as a television show, or a person who I think is real and somehow obtainable.

Precisely the reason why I don't wear a towel
between the bathroom and bedroom.

The Veronica Mars movie works, because Veronica Mars was so much more than the high-concept pitch described above.

The themes of the show: social division, alienation, the corruption of privilege, are themes that gave the show its weight and integrity, and are relevant no matter how old the characters happen to be. Where once these issues were dissected through the eyes of a spunky teenage sleuth, now they're through the eyes of a small town’s least favourite daughter returning home to clear up the mess she left behind.

As she was in the television show, Veronica Mars is a refreshingly unsexualised central female character, who also gets the rare acclaim of being the funniest character in the proceedings, thanks to Kristen Bell's effortless timing and sass.

The icy bon-mots and non-patronising humour remain intact. Bell delivers a perfectly judged and well-timed "fuck off" to a would-be suitor and comes up with an inventive new way to flip someone off that’s even better than Chris Pratt’s in the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer.


The central plot, in which Veronica’s ex-boyfriend Logan has been wrongly accused of murder, coincidentally timed with a 10 year high school reunion, may sound massively contrived on paper, but writer, director and show creator Rob Thomas makes it all seem convincing enough.

There are a few moments of "hey it’s this forgotten character from my past, what have you been up to?… uh-huh… yeah… uh-huh... anyway I've gotta go" but then that’s what real-life reunions are like. The very Murder, She Wrote-ness of the show becomes incredibly apparent here too. How many 10 year high-school reunions need an in-memorial section?

As you'd expect, there are many nods and winks. Some in-jokes are very much earned, some feel a little forced, but all of them can be forgiven to a certain extent. It would be impossible not to acknowledge within the movie that its very existence relies on a Kickstarter campaign.

In fact I had a lot of fun spotting the obvious cameos from Kickstarter donators as extras.

This guy HAS to be one, right?

This running guy is my particular favourite. He's couldn't be more relieved not to have mildly brushed past that stranger.

Not sure about this clown though.

That’s unfair. Franco is as awesome and as self-effacing as he normally is whenever he plays himself in a film, by which I mean all James Franco films. There are tonnes of other cameos, from Neptune residents and non-residents alike, but it would spoil your enjoyment if I revealed them all here.

I occasionally missed the neo-noir lighting the original show utilised in order to stand out from the teen drama crowd, but then that was very much a product of the 90s and would probably date this movie horribly.

Rob Thomas uses a rather bricks-and-mortar approach to shooting. There's nothing expressionistic or in homage to his obvious noir influences. But then Jacques Tourneur levels of cinematography and art design may only distract the vast majority of the audience who just came to see how their favourite characters have grown in the last seven years.

Does it work for the minority? As in the passing UK cinema goers or Amazon Prime subscribers who haven’t imported the DVDs, or managed to catch up on three-year’s worth of television in the preceding week before release?

It’s hard to gauge. As a loyal fan of the show, it feels like a triumph to see a prematurely terminated show, resuscitated and propped up on a cinema screen and have it not feel like a bloated cadaver paraded through various comical scrapes whilst being clumsily held-up by some long forgotten actors.

I will say this to non-fans of the show... The Veronica Mars movie is definitely better than Weekend at Bernie’s. Both parts. High praise indeed.

I hope that while reading this, it didn't become too obvious how bitter I am that my Kickstarter fund to make a feature length version of Press Gang didn’t make it off the ground.

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