Veronica Mars – Review
A cult favourite in the US, teen detective series Veronica Mars never really managed to gain much of a fanbase on this side of the pond. A satirical high school drama by way of a noir detective thriller, the show made a B-level star of lead Kristen Bell but was cancelled after only three seasons. Now, through the medium of Kickstarter, Veronica Mars is back and on the big screen. But can you ever go home again? It’s a question Veronica Mars asks of it’s audience both figuratively and, for the titular character, quite literally.
Having left the corrupt sun-drenched town of Neptune nine years previously, up-and-coming lawyer Veronica is drawn back to the place of her darkest memories when former flame Logan Echolls is framed for the murder of his pop-star girlfriend. Initially there to help Logan find a lawyer, Veronica soon reverts to her old ways and, using the facilities of her PI father, begins investigating the murder herself.
It’s a given that TV actors who achieve – and embrace – a certain level of cult fandom rarely find another role that affords them the same success. There are exceptions obviously, for example David Boreanaz and Nathan Fillion, but it’s something which eludes most. Post-Veronica Mars, Kristen Bell has had a number of “on the poster” roles; yet having never gotten above the fandom granted her by Mars, she returns to the character with a visible sense of gusto – one perhaps not entirely in sync with the film itself. As the elder Mars, Enrico Colantoni steals the movie entirely (as, indeed, he did the series); his role faring a lot better than the majority of Neptune’s inhabitants. The supporting cast are mostly adequate; albeit largely wasted in what amount to oversized cameos, something that makes very little sense for instance in the case of Veronica’s two closest friends. Returning to the fairly central role of Logan meanwhile, Jason Dohring comes across as strangely bored, as if he’s appeasing a fanbase but has no real investment himself; while Francis Capra’s character of Weevil (one of the series’ highlights) is reduced to a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it subplot that you can’t help but think would have served as a more interesting storyline than the fairly by-the-numbers one the movie actually runs with.
As a big screen outing, Veronica Mars lacks any real theatrical quality; managing to look somehow inferior to even the worst episode of the TV show that spawned it. Endless references to events past and previous relationships will doubtless prove a turn-off for newcomers, while the story itself is simply dragged out past the point of being particularly interesting, at one point stopping more-or-less entirely in its tracks to give us a frankly bizarre cameo by James Franco. Playing more or less a reunion movie made for television, it feels incredibly overlong at 107 minutes; while it’s central whodunnit provides us a wholeheartedly dissatisfying resolution that feels like a great disservice in light of what the fan-funded film represents to the concept of television as a whole.
As a fan of the series, I had high hopes for Veronica Mars, yet was thoroughly underwhelmed. For people who’ve never heard of the series, it’ll no doubt just seem bland. The entire endeavour comes across as a wasted opportunity; and when you take a step back and look at the opportunity the character has been given, that’s simply not good enough.
Catch Van Connor’s reviews in our Movies section and live on Slam Dunk Cinema every Saturday at 12PM on Sheffield Live! 93.2FM or on the podcast via iTunes.
Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni