‘Veronica Mars:’ Marshing My Mellow

I tried, once or twice, to watch the Veronica Mars series when it aired and never got very far. Perky teenage sleuth shows with a penchant for farfetched, unjustifiable plots, snarky dialogue, cheesy jokes, and melodramatic love triangles are not my cup of tea. However, a legion of loyal fans with enough love for the show to contribute financially to the completion of the film would likely have numerous eloquent arguments for the show’s value, and I do understand “being a fan,” so I write this review with a side of salt, and each of you may have a grain (or two, or eighty). This, I realize, does not make up for the fact that I will definitely be mean to this movie in the coming paragraphs, but that’s because it’s easier and more fun for me to do that (a quality of mine I should probably work out). Anyway, here we go…

The Veronica Mars movie is like a vestigial tail: an extension, an out of place mutation in an otherwise normal line of perfectly acceptable vertebrae. It is, essentially, a longer episode of an okay CW show from the mid-2000s. It begins with a greenish, filtered, montage, in which Veronica Mars explains to us via self-important voice over that she used to be a private investigator in her middle-school-cartoon-named hometown of Neptune, California, but now she’s left that schtick behind to become a high-powered, pantsuit-wearing New York lawyer, as precocious, teenage main characters of TV dramas are wont to do. But, of course, a scandal breaks out in Neptune and she returns to her old stomping grounds and her old leather bag and her chunky detective camera, and she can’t seem to look back (or rather, forward, to the future that makes infinitely more sense to pursue).

But, a pop star is found dead, a pop star who happens to have been dating an ex of Veronica’s, an ex who happens to have been involved with another tragedy from their mutual past, a tragedy from their mutual past that happens to also include a bunch of Veronica’s other high school classmates, high school classmates who happen to be in Neptune for an almost aggressively convenient 10-year class reunion. Veronica tricks and spies her way to solving the mystery, getting in several bouts of trouble that lead her father, the huggable and perpetually distressed Enrico Colantoni, to reiterate that it’s maybe not the greatest decision to abandon the stable, New York life she could have.

As a stand-alone movie, it does little to justify its characters’ motivations, but I suspect that for the filmmakers that was not a priority, because most audience members would already have a good idea of who these characters are. For example, watching it as an outsider, it seems like Veronica Mars is just kind of a bitch. I haven’t seen the series, so I am not aware of the details surrounding her saga with Logan Echols (Jason Dohring) and Stosh “Piz” Piznarski (Chris Lowell), but when the movie starts, she is dating Piz, a good, goofy guy. By the end, she has trampled all over him  and botched her job offer and started sucking faces with a guy whose girlfriend JUST died (an event for which, inexplicably, he never shows any negative emotion), and all for no apparent reason other than that she has seemingly re-found her calling and is unwaveringly selfish. It seems like a character arc that should be explored and reflected on in coming episodes and seasons, but the nature of a movie means you only get those two hours to color in the whole picture, and they didn’t have enough crayons.

Their Kickstarter money went to scoring some pretty funny cameos and I bet that most fans will find it entertaining. As I was watching it, I remarked that this movie is like a Party Down reunion, and I was told that both shows have the same creator (Rob Thomas, a man who is a maker of television and movies and not the lead singer of Matchbox Twenty). There are some hilarious comedians and comedic actors in this movie, funny people who are in much funnier and better written projects than this one. But the actors seem to be having fun, which I always appreciate, and there’s nothing offensive about the movie. It just seems…incomplete. Kind of like the end of this review…

Grade: B-

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