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Mars attacks: Movie review of Veronica Mars

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I am not a marshmallow; I didn’t even know what the term meant until looking it up after seeing the film, but I knew it meant something since the movie so obviously emphasized it. I was vaguely aware that Veronica Mars was a television show – much in the same way I’m aware that King of Queens was a show but could not tell you a thing about it. However the real story is how a little known cable television drama, which aired 2004-2007, became a Kickstarter success story.

It was reported that fans of the show felt the series ended on an unsatisfactory note. Rob Thomas, creator and producer of Mars, wrote a feature film script afterwards to tie up loose ends but Warner Brothers wasn’t interested. Fast forward to March of 2013 when Thomas, Kristen Bell (who played the title character) and others presented a promotional Kickstarter video to entice interested parties to fork over enough money in order to make the movie. The project made history as the fastest to reach one million and then two; in a month’s time the venture had nearly 92,000 individual donors who gave over an estimated 5.7 million to begin filming.

The film debuted almost exclusively in Kansas City headquartered AMC theaters after Warner Brothers stepped up for distribution. It is also featured on cable systems as an On Demand download.

I saw the film in a theater and was impressed with how many fans showed up for opening night. As a Mars newbie I grasped the premise without much prompting. Mars got into detective work as a high school student after her best friend was murdered and her father, who was the town sheriff, accused a rich man of the crime thus ending his tenure as a public servant. Prior to her father’s downfall, Mars had been in the top tier of her high school pecking order to then find herself scrapping the bottom of the proverbial teen angst barrel. The movie starts with Mars, now all Stanford Law educated milling around NYC interviewing for corporate lawyer jobs and she has an understanding cute boyfriend whose goal is to introduce her to his parents. During a job interview, with Jamie Lee Curtis asking the questions, Mars talks about a sex tape, which she confesses that she is no longer disturbed by it, and how she has sworn off detective work…that is until she finds out a fellow classmate has been killed and she gets a call from an ex.

Returning to the fictional town of Neptune, California, Mars is confronted with all of the ghosts of her past. Neptune, located on the coast, appears to be a town made up of rich folks and trouble. Her ex-boyfriend (who I thought resembled a human praying mantis) meets her at the airport wearing his navy whites which prompts Mars to ask if he plans to carry her through the airport a la An Officer and a Gentleman. The movie is jam packed with Mars’ quips of this nature of which some land and others don’t. I suppose the wit would have played better if there had been a bigger budget to accommodate the action scenes films of this genre needs. I mean how funny would Bruce Willis’ “Yippie ki yay mother_______” be if he spent all of Die Hard in the employee cafeteria?

The plot is thin; involving the before mentioned fellow classmate who has now morphed into an MTV troubled songstress who appears to be a mash-up of Katy Perry and Bjork. She was dating praying mantis guy until her drug use got too much for him. Because she texted asking for help he showed up at her home to only discover her electrocuted in the bathtub, now he is accused of her murder. The current corrupt Neptune sheriff’s department thinks he is guilty and the only person between praying mantis and the death chamber is Ms. Mars.

The main quibble I have about Veronica are the inconsistencies such as having a celebrity’s murder with a boyfriend standing accused (a relationship highlighted with and Internet sex tape) to then have him wandering around town with no paparazzi tail – not even TMZ. There was also the time Mars was taking photos, with one of those long telephoto lens no less, outside of a suspect’s multi-windowed apartment using an air vent as her only cover. The woman goes about her business not ever noticing from the corner of her eye someone snapping pictures. Even her neighbors do not see Mars whom one can assume can be seen on their side of the air vent.

I recommend seeing Veronica Mars on the smaller screen; past the first weekend of release I do not think this film will attract any more television fans to the multiplex. Considering the small budget I think the movie was a noble effort to give people who loved the series what they wanted. I believe the groundwork has been laid to produce a film with a healthier production cost that could further develop the Mars franchise – there is talk of a spin off series to debut Fall of 2014. The real winner here is Kristen Bell who seems like a stand up girl and is making inroads into the Hollywood hierarchy system by being involved with the Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign, her turn as Anna in Disney’s Frozen, along with her recent advocacy against the tabloid press printing pictures of celebrity children, not to mention tweets about higher taxes for the wealthy which left talking heads at Fox News all ruffled and indignant. She is also on the Showtime series, House of Lies. And to think before this film I knew her best as Sarah Marshal and the chick that was fed to the pigs on Deadwood.

Happy viewing!

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