Was The Veronica Mars Movie Worth The Hype?
The reunion came out over the weekend, picking up seven years after the beloved TV show left off.
School reunions are a delicate business. It’s tempting to go back and see what the old gang are doing, and now and then you might even get lucky — but most of the time you end up vomiting an entire bottle of Bacardi down your shirtfront while your Maths B crush looks on in disappointment. TV reunions can be just as awkward. Sure, we all thought we wanted another season of Arrested Development — but then it actually happened, and we realised some things are better left in the past.
The Veronica Mars movie, which came out on iTunes over the weekend and picks up seven years after the beloved TV series left off, plays on the very notion of reunions. It’s that rare example of a TV reunion that doesn’t feel silly or perfunctory; in fact, it actually adds layers of depth and meaning to the original series. The story, though framed around a murder mystery, is really all about the irresistible temptation to revisit the past, to relight old flames and reopen old wounds, even though we know that no good will come of it.
At the start of the movie, Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) has cut herself loose from her old life as a private detective. She has a comfortable, boring boyfriend (Chris Lowell), and a lucrative job offer from a law firm. This newfound peace and quiet lasts until she gets a call from her ex-boyfriend Logan (Jason Dohring). Logan’s pop star girlfriend has been murdered, and he’s the prime suspect. This little sniff of danger is all it takes. Soon enough, in spite of her better judgement, she’s at her high school reunion, uncovering a decade’s worth of dark secrets and murderous cover-ups.
Each season of Veronica Mars was framed around a central mystery, and these season-long arcs meant plenty of time for diversions and red herrings, as well as opportunities for mounting tension. By necessity, the movie has to cram its mystery into an hour and a half. While the pace is a lot more rushed, the story plays out in a way that feels very much like the original. There are wisecracks, quips, clever acts of deduction and lucky coincidences — and then of course there’s Kristen Bell’s familiar voice over, in the style of a hard-bitten detective.
The rogue’s gallery of supporting characters help and hinder Veronica’s investigation. There are numerous familiar faces from the series – Ryan Hansen’s entertainingly douchey Dick Casablancas makes a return, along with the likes of Ken Marino, Max Greenfield, Enrico Colantoni, Tina Majorino and the always-mean Krysten Ritter.
There’s one very fun celebrity cameo that I won’t give away; suffice to say that this person was probably a fan of the original show, and clearly had fun shooting his brief appearance.
Surprisingly, the only real let-down in the Veronica Mars movie is the central romance. Veronica’s love-hate relationship with the bad boy Logan was one of my favourite parts of the original series. In the movie, however, Logan has straightened up and joined the navy, and aside from looking pretty dashing in his uniform, he’s very, very flat. He and Veronica don’t really have any of their old spark or back-and-forth chemistry. Her passion for him is meant to be the thing that pulls her back into her old life, but their scenes together drag on, and could probably have been cut back in favour of various other narrative threads that the movie leaves hanging.
There’s one plot hole in the film that really bothered me, although I’m open to debate on it. Without getting into any spoilers, Veronica’s investigation leads her to a vital piece of information: a video recording from the night of the murder. The old friend who gives her this recording has clearly seen it already, and chosen not to reveal its incriminating contents — a decision that makes absolutely no sense. Other than the fact that it drives the plot in a different direction, there’s no reason why this hugely important clue should only come out so late in the investigation.
The Veronica Mars movie was made possible by the donations of devoted fans on Kickstarter, and it was clearly made with these devoted fans in mind. It’s thick with call-backs and references to the original show, and if its story was stretched out, it could quite easily function as a fourth season. For this reason, casual viewers might find the movie a bit of a baffling experience, but fans will definitely be rewarded.
As mentioned, there are a few threads that the film leaves hanging. If successful, it might hypothetically serve as a jumping-off point for a new season of the show, perhaps for Amazon or Netflix. It might also inspire creator Rob Thomas to try and get a Party Down reunion off the ground. A whole lot of the same personnel are involved, after all.
Whatever happens from here, the Veronica Mars movie succeeds in its task of bringing the old gang back together, proving that every so often, you can go home again.
Veronica Mars is available now from iTunes for $24.99
Alasdair Duncan is an author, freelance writer and video game-lover who has had work published in Crikey, The Drum, The Brag, Beat, Rip It Up, The Music Network, Rave Magazine, AXN Cult and Star Observer