Mark Reviews Movies

Veronica Mars


2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Rob Thomas

Cast: Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni, Chris Lowell, Ryan Hansen, Percy Daggs III, Tina Majorino, Krysten Ritter, Francis Capra, Gaby Hoffman, Jerry O'Connell

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sexuality including references, drug content, violence and some strong language)

Running Time: 1:47

Release Date: 3/14/14

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Review by Mark Dujsik | March 14, 2014

We can all agree that one of the essential goals of a successful movie adaptation of any material should make those unfamiliar with the source feel not only welcome and comfortable but also eager to discover the material from whence the movie was born. There will be those who know and adore Rob Thomas' television series "Veronica Mars," and there will be those, like me, whose acquaintance extends as far as the knowledge that the show exists (Considering that it was cancelled after poor ratings throughout three seasons, it's very possible that even awareness of its existence puts one in a minority on the subject). As one of the uninitiated, I can state that Veronica Mars fails in the welcoming and comforting department and partially succeeds in making me want to watch the show, in that, after seeing the movie, I'm rather curious what the fuss about it is.

If you are a fan of the show and feel the desire to dismiss my initial reaction before we really begin, I hereby give you permission to do so, if—and only if—you first consider this: It is nearly impossible for a critic to be or become acquainted with every instance of another medium that may or will be adapted into a movie. It is not, in my humble opinion, a failing on the critic's part. There must be that basic honesty between the critic and his/her reader for this relationship to work, and if we're being honest with each other, you, as a fan of the show, are probably at least a little bit curious what someone unfamiliar with it thought of the movie.

From where I stand, this continuation of the story from the television show is so dependent upon one's intimacy with the show that, as a standalone movie, it is restrictive. The characters, who may or may not be better defined in the long-form narrative of a television series, exist here as vessels for the advancement of a mystery and romantic entanglements.

There's a prologue to introduce or reacquaint us with the basics of the main character that, actually, also defines her more by events than anything else. As a teenager, Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) lived in Neptune (which is, we suppose, appropriate), a sleepy California town filled with the rich and their spoiled progeny and prone to lots and lots of mysterious deaths. Veronica's best friend was murdered, which started her on an accidental semi-career as a private investigator. Her deceased best friend's boyfriend Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) had a bad temper and an on-again-off-again relationship with Veronica.

It's a recap that tells us only what we absolutely need to know, which, as it turns out, isn't much. Since her high school days, Veronica has graduated college, went to law school, and is currently interviewing for a job at a prestigious law firm in New York City, dependent on whether or not she answered the "What did you learn from that time a sex tape featuring you went on the Internet" question to the attorneys' liking—the usual interview stuff.

Meanwhile, her 10-year high school reunion is approaching, and Logan has just been implicated in the electrocution murder of another of his on-again-off-again girlfriends—a famous pop star who also went to high school with them. Veronica doesn't believe Logan is capable of murder, and when he calls asking for help, she quickly leaves New York and her steady boyfriend Piz (Chris Lowell) to come to the rescue.

The murder mystery is the movie's strongest point, although it doesn't really take focus until the final act. Until then, screenwriters Thomas (who also directed) and Diane Ruggiero spend the majority of the movie playing catch-up with the characters. Aside from the ones mentioned and the few that play a direct part in the mystery, only Veronica's worrying, private eye father (Enrico Colantoni) leaves much of an impression, although we've also been introduced to him a little bit in the prologue. Otherwise, there are friends, such as Wallace (Percy Daggs III) and Mac (Tina Majorino), who turn up every so often to be friendly and random acquaintances who pop up here and there to much fanfare, with little explanation, and offering even less of a result. There are a few cameos, most notably Jamie Lee Curtis as one of the lawyers in New York and James Franco, in the movie's funniest joke, as the star to whom everyone in Neptune is separated by six degrees.

Just as it starts to grow tedious, Veronica Mars does start to find a more generic—in this case, a positive—and less niche-centric purpose once Veronica abandons all hope—or perhaps just the self-delusion of it—of escaping her past and embraces the one thing that has defined her. The character having definition is a start, but it arrives just as things are coming to an end.

Copyright © 2014 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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