I didn’t find my way to Veronica Mars until after the television show ended, unfortunately, but I’ve been a fan for years. Naturally, I was ecstatic when I heard about the Kickstarter project to make it into a movie, and over the weekend, I finally got around to watching it.
It’s not perfect — there’s actually a surprising amount that I’d like to change — but I had a pretty good time watching it anyway.
Basically, everything I want to discuss includes SPOILERS, so I didn’t even bother creating a special section for them. Sorry, kids.
Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) — once a teenage private detective, now a soon-to-big city lawyer — returns home days before her ten-year high school reunion in order to help her ex-boyfriend, Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), when he finds himself the prime suspect in his ex-girlfriend’s murder.
1. I think I made it a whole six minutes into this movie before I was like, Damn, I miss you, Veronica Mars.
Kristen Bell slides back into the title role effortlessly, and not only that, she’s as spunky, clever, and awesome as she was in Season One. (I had a few issues with her characterization in the following seasons. Then again, I had many issues with the following seasons.) Veronica Mars might be one of my favorite TV characters ever created, and I had a great time watching her do what she does best: discover clues, banter with anything on two legs, and tase bad guys.
2. It was particularly great to see Veronica with her dad, Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni).
Just as Veronica is one of my favorite characters, Veronica and Keith have one of my very favorite parent-child relationships in all of television. These two are so good together on screen. I could watch nothing but the two of them going back-and-forth for hours. And for the most part, they’re absolutely awesome here . . . but I do feel that the story does the two of them a bit of a disservice by not allowing them the opportunity to discuss Veronica’s final decision to stay in Neptune.
Cause, here’s the thing. We all know that Veronica is going to stay in Neptune, like we all know that she isn’t going to still be dating Piz (Chris Lowell) at the end of the movie. (More on that in a bit.) But throughout the whole film, she and Keith are at odds about her future. Keith wants her to get out, be a success, leave this place with all its police corruption behind, and Veronica misses the excitement that goes along with her old, scrappy life. She spends the whole movie trying to decide what to do, while pretty much everyone is telling her what they think she should do — namely, get out while you still can — and yet, once she’s finally made up her mind about it, there’s never a time when she explains to anyone why she’s staying behind. She never says anything like, “This isn’t about Logan. This is about me. This is about what I want.” And really, I think that’s unfortunate because the whole movie seems to be building towards such a moment, particularly between Keith, who wants the best for his daughter, and Veronica, who needs to choose for herself what that is. The movie alludes to such a scene, but we don’t get to actually see it play out, and I’m a little disappointed by the lack of resolution. It feels a little unbalanced to me.
3. I also kind of wish Piz just hadn’t been in the movie.
You’re probably thinking this is because I’m Team Logan, and I am, but it’s not. Not entirely, anyway. Actually, I like Piz a lot more in this movie than I ever did in Season Three, where he was nice enough but totally boring and didn’t seem to have much in the way of chemistry with Kristen Bell. (It didn’t help that Bell and Dohring already had two seasons to build a relationship with a passionate fan base, and that the actors had chemistry like whoa.) I liked Piz here, and I felt sorry for him, and he was totally right when he called Veronica out on not being there for him.
But . . . we all knew they weren’t going to end up together, didn’t we? Even Team Piz fans — the few there actually are — must have known that. Even people who had never seen the show before probably figured it out. And Piz takes up a lot of screentime for a guy who’s really only the Snowball’s Chance in Hell point in the Stereotypical Love Triangle.
And maybe you’re thinking, Yeah, but Carlie, Piz represents Veronica’s life away from Neptune. He’s the symbol for all that she’s leaving behind when she chooses to go back to her old life. But it’s an unnecessary symbol because we already know what she’s leaving behind: a ridiculously well-paying job at a top New York law firm that she’s only been working to get for however many years it takes to graduate law school. I mean, I haven’t been to law school, but I have to assume it’s not exactly a breeze to pass, especially when you’re near the top of your class and have your sights set on Big Deal Firms.
And yet, by including Piz and the whole BS love triangle, I feel like the movie’s trying to turn Veronica’s Big Choice from ‘what career will satisfy you as a person’ to ‘which boy are you gonna choose, Ronnie?’ And I find that frustrating. Even if we didn’t clearly know who she was going to end up with, that really shouldn’t be Veronica’s defining question.
4. And the thing is, all that time we spend on this BS love triangle, on Veronica explaining to Piz that she’ll just be a couple more days, or everyone under the sun telling Veronica that Logan’s no good for her? These are precious moments we could be spending on creating a tighter mystery.
Maybe some of my dissatisfaction with the case stems from unrealistic expectations — I cannot tell you how much I want to see an honest-to-god high school reunion murder mystery. It’s weirdly something I’ve been interested in since high school, actually, and I was kind of hopeful that Veronica Mars might finally give it to me — because even knowing that our murder victim would die well before the reunion itself, I figured all the suspects would be Neptune High alums and would, at least, be interrogated at the reunion.
Which . . . kind of happened, I guess. But the mystery itself is oddly paced — we only really get one suspect in the first half of the movie, a crazy stalker and obvious red herring played by Gaby Hoffman, who I surprisingly recognized, despite the fact that I haven’t seen her in anything for over ten years. (Then again, I did really love Now & Then as a kid.) We don’t meet the actual suspects in the movie until about forty-five minutes in, and disappointingly, they all basically have the same motive: covering up a preventable death they were all responsible for way back in high school. We don’t immediately know the specifics, true, but we basically know why Carrie Bishop was killed, and after that, there aren’t many twists or turns.
Except, I suppose, that Cobb (Martin Starr) is the mastermind behind it all and has been blackmailing the others into silence. It was actually a pretty creepy reveal, when you realize that Gia (Krysten Ritter) has been having sex with this asshole to pay for his silence and lives under his constant surveillance, to the point where she can’t even have curtains blocking the view from his apartment into hers. (Much to her downfall.)
Still . . . Cobb was never a character in the TV series, has no actual ties to anyone in the main cast, and probably has twelve minutes of screentime in the whole movie. That’s not a lot of time or consideration given to your chief antagonist. Gia’s a decent suspect because she was a reoccurring and fairly memorable character from the second season, but Luke Haldeman (Sam Huntington) was a bit part who only appeared in two episodes and also has very little screen time or personal connection to anyone that matters. And while Dick Casablancas (Ryan Hansen) does actually have personal ties to Logan, I never seriously considered him as a suspect, and I’d be kind of surprised if anyone else did, either — although, if he’d been the bad guy, at least that would have mattered to somebody.
Cause, the way I figure it, the whole point in having a movie where your detective goes back to her hometown to solve a murder is that it should shake the foundations a little. Even in what’s essentially a breezy little film like this — there are no stakes here, no real drama, no revelations about characters we (and Veronica) thought we knew. Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad Logan wasn’t a serious suspect because, come on, been there, done that, got the T-shirt, but I didn’t care about almost any of the major players in the crime. Even the dead girl was only in two episodes. (Played by a different actress, as Leighton Meester apparently had scheduling conflicts.)
5. It should be said: there are a ton of enjoyable cameos and Easter Eggs for fans of the television series. My darling public defender, Cliff (Daran Norris), was there, not to mention Leo, Vinnie, Madison Sinclair, Celeste Kane, Deputy Sachs, Sean Friedrich, Principal Van Clemmons, and a whole bunch of others I’m forgetting right now. Also, of course, Weevil (Francis Capra), Mac (Tina Majorino), and Wallace (Percy Daggs III) — all of whom were totally enjoyable to see again. (Mac and Wallace were especially funny together.)
My problem is that none of them had very much to do, and I get it — limited time — but I think their stories could have been handled better, especially in regards to the resolution of their arcs. (Such as they are.) Wallace doesn’t really bother me (actually I enjoy Percy Daggs III here a lot more than I did in the show, where I always kind of thought he was one of the weaker links), but Mac and Weevil do. Let’s talk Mac first.
My problem with Mac’s story might be something of a nitpick. She tells Veronica that she essentially sold out to the evil Kane Foundation cause, dude, MONEY, but in the denouement, she appears to have quit that job in order to set up shop at Mars Investigations . . . which, sure, that’s very nice and all, but, you know, why? Has she just been waiting for Veronica to offer her what’s almost certainly a considerably low-paying job, probably without benefits? Did Veronica give her any kind of incentive other than, it’s the right thing to do or it’ll be dangerous fun times? Mac’s story doesn’t really support this kind of turnaround, mostly because Mac doesn’t have much of a story — and just because Veronica’s come to the conclusion that she needs to go back to her old, spunky ways, it shouldn’t necessarily follow that everyone needs to do the same. (I mean, I didn’t need a big thing. A single line of dialogue might have helped here.)
And yet, following Veronica back to the Old Ways is what Weevil seems to do, too, and his circumstances are even more bizarre.
Like, okay. In the years we’ve been away, Weevil has completely reformed his life, quit his biker gang, married a nice woman, and had a little girl. None of that matters to Celeste Kane, though, because when Weevil goes to make sure she’s okay after some PCHers have been harassing her, she immediately shoots him. Worse, the police plant a gun on him to back up Celeste’s claims of self-defense. So, absolutely, Weevil’s got cause to be pissed.
But I’m not sure I see the logical progression of thought from ‘I’m being framed by the cops’ to ‘I should immediately start riding around with my criminal friends again because that will totally help out my legal case, not to mention my wife is going to be THRILLED.’ I feel like there’s a Point B we’re missing here, like, we leave Weevil in a hospital, injured but presumably still on the straight and narrow, and when we finally see him again maybe forty-five minutes later, he’s riding out of the movie with his biker buddies, and I’m like, Wait, what? When did THAT happen? WHY did that happen?
6. The more I think about it (and the more I read about the film), the more questions I think were left unanswered intentionally. Like, when The Truck That Always Comes Out of Nowhere slams into the good guys’ car and takes out Deputy Sachs (while also putting Keith Mars into the hospital — who Veronica is apparently not allowed to visit in the ICU for days, like, what) . . . that mystery isn’t actually ever solved and is probably a setup for a sequel. But the way it’s done in the film . . . something doesn’t quite seem right about it, like I think they’re intentional plot holes, but they don’t feel intentional somehow. Maybe I actually need Veronica to end the film by saying something like, “I’m back, and I’m going to find out who did this.” (Preferably something much better than this, of course. The writer in me is cringing right now, but the lazy asshole in me is like, “Eh, that’s fine.)
I suppose it’s worth pointing out that I might feel differently if I watched the movie again. Maybe the ending won’t feel quite as meh to me, but as is, I think Veronica Mars kind of fails all around on the resolution score. Maybe if they’d gone a little easier on that whole addict metaphor — I don’t mind the idea of it, exactly, but they push it awfully hard.
7. But I’ve just spent, like, three hours tearing apart a movie that I actually mostly enjoyed — I swear, I didn’t think this was going to turn out to be such a negative review, considering I actually would recommend this to any fans of the television show that haven’t already seen it — so let me end on more of an up note: LoVe shippers?
Break out your champagne because your OTP has officially gotten together. Well. More or less. Logan’s in the military now — which is kind of hilarious to me but also weirdly sort of works? — so he has to go away for some time. But he promises to return, and they echo the dialogue from one of their most infamous shipper scenes in the whole series, so that was kind of a nice moment.
Logan: “So. This is happening.”
Wallace: “When Logan said ‘jump,’ did you actually say ‘how high,’ or was there just an understanding that you would achieve max verticality?”
Veronica: “Come back to me.”
Veronica: “So if we’re to believe this police report, Weevil left the reunion, dropped off his foxy wife and his ‘most changed’ trophy and, still wearing his dress shirt and slacks, teamed up with the motorcycle gang he left a decade ago to harass the richest divorcee in Southern California?”
Keith: “Well, when you say it like that, I start to see some holes in it.”
Veronica: “I want to ask you about the night Susan Knight died.”
Dick: “Of course you do. It’s a party.”
The Lawyer Who Isn’t Jamie Lee Curtis: “So you’re decision to transfer wasn’t related to a certain video of you and another Hearst student?”
Veronica: “The sex tape? No need to be coy.”
Sheriff Dan Lamb (on phone): “We’re not in the habit of handing out case files.”
Veronica (on phone, with fake accent): “I’m not in the habit of dating cops, but I make exceptions. Do you ever make exceptions?”
Sheriff Dan Lamb: “I will have it scanned for you right now.”
Keith (in the background): “Would you say I was a good parent?”
Wallace: “In case it slipped your mind, Piz is the one without the baggage and the drama.”
Mac: “I will say this for him: he almost never gets charged with murder.”
Dick: “Hey, is anyone else surprised that I’m the only one in this room who does not have a sex tape?”
Veronica: “On the bright side, you are not a date with a murderer.”
Logan: “Well, I do take some comfort in that.”
Veronica: “Ignore the dick.”
Keith: “I’m sure you know breaking and entering is a felony.”
Veronica: “Come on, I knew the felonies before I knew the state capitals.”
Keith: “When Number One Daughter was young, her skills were sharp like blade of sword, now brain dull like blade of plow.”
Wallace: “I’ve been promoted to JV Coach, so now I’m just waiting for Coach McDonald to die.”
Keith: “Well, good luck with that. Mac, you still with Som Microsystems?”
Mac: “Actually . . .”
Wallace: “Go ahead. Go ahead and tell them what you’re been up to now. The shame. The shame.”
Veronica: “Hooters waitress? Ren Faire juggling?”
Veronica: “Hooters bar-back!”
Keith: “Clubbing baby seals?”
Mac: “Worse. I actually took a job with Kane Software.”
Mac: “I know, I hate it. I do. I wish I was clubbing baby seals, but they just pay me so well!”
Veronica: “Ten Thousand Dollar Pyramid: Things a Whore Says!”
Veronica: “In a lesser known epic poem, Dante’s Inferno 2: Hell Freezes Over, ten years after escaping the Nine Circles, Dante returns, you know, for old time’s sake.”
Veronica: “Dumb question, but I have to ask: did you know you were being filmed?”
Logan: “Oh, that’s right. We were shooting some of our usual leg erotica.”
Keith: “Wallace, how’s next year’s freshman class looking?”
Veronica: “Words you never want to hear out of your dad’s mouth.”
Veronica: “Hey, Mr. C. You miss me yet?”
Mr. C: “It’s been ten years of peace and quiet.”
Veronica: “If you like that sort of thing.”
Mr. C: “Veronica. It’s been . . . boring.”
Enjoyable but often flawed. Much like the second season of Veronica Mars in that respect, actually. I loved seeing Veronica again, along with many of the side characters, and the dialogue was great. I would absolutely sign up for another movie . . . but that doesn’t change the fact that I think this one had a lot of execution problems in time management, mystery setup, unnecessary romantic complications, and resolutions.
Kristen Bell, no question
You CAN go home again, but you’re sure as hell not leaving for a second time.
Also, this one’s for you, Deputy Sachs, and to all people who grow a conscience in the eleventh hour: don’t do this. It will get you killed. Do you hear me? YOU WILL DIE FROM THIS.