“Veronica Mars” marks the return of Kristen Bell in the role of the titular teen detective who earned a cult following on the small screen. Cancelled after three seasons, fans have been demanding more for years, even going as far as forking over millions of dollars on Kickstarter. Having donated a small portion of those funds myself and having seen the character’s previous adventures in TV land, I am a little bit biased for this review. I can only speculate if non-fans will have a good time, but the character is still so entertaining and the writing so sharp it is difficult to imagine anyone not to taking a liking to detective Mars.
For those unfamiliar with her story, or for those who need a refresher, the film opens with a prologue narrated with Veronica’s signature voice over. Years ago she lived in the (fictional) town of Neptune, California, where the rich and famous live the good life and the poor have to endure a corrupt police force. Her father Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni) used to be the sheriff, but was run out of office after accusing the richest man in town of murder and became a private detective in the aftermath. Veronica started helping him on his cases and even solved many cases in her own high school, but decided to leave that world behind as the price on her personal life became too high.
Cut to a now adult Veronica who has left everything and everyone behind for a life in New York City to work as an investigator for a law firm. The job will pay good money, while in her personal life she is enjoying a stable relationship with her college boyfriend Stosh “Piz” Piznarski (Chris Lowell) who also has a good job in radio and is eager for his parents to meet his perfect girlfriend. Everything is great…until the news announce the death of a troubled singer who was one of her fellow students in Neptune. The prime suspect is her ex-boyfriend Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), a troubled rich man with whom she had a tempestuous on-again off-again relationship and is one of the reasons she moved to the east coast. Soon her phone rings and sure enough it is Logan asking for her help.
Before flying back to the lion’s den Veronica reassures Piz it will be a short trip. She will give Logan some legal advice, spend some time with her dad, and say hello to old friends. However she emphasizes the very last thing she will do is attend the high school reunion, which she equates to Dante revisiting the circles of hell. Unfortunately for her, and for Piz, old habits die-hard. A small look at the case turns into a full-blown investigation just like in the old days. While starring at her box of investigative accessories, which consist of various fake IDs, mace, a taser, and burner phones, she compares her detective work to an addiction. Can Batman really ever stop being Batman?
Fans of Veronica Mars will be delighted to see various references to the TV show, whether it is iconic lines, the theme song, and of course many characters who have never left Neptune. Providing support are Veronica’s old friends, Wallace Fennel (Percy Daggs III) a former school athlete, Cindy “Mac” Mackenzie (Tina Majorino) a computer genius, and Eli “Weevil” Navarro (Francis Capra) a former gang member. Her obvious antagonists are the corrupt Sheriff Dan Lamb (Jerry O’Connell) and Madison Sinclair (Amanda Noret) a girl who never missed an opportunity to make Veronica’s life hell in high school and would love to see history repeat itself. Then somewhere in between you have characters like Vinnie Van Lowe (Ken Marino) a rival investigator with no scruples.
All of these characters make for a very noir world in Neptune despite the fact it is located on the sunny west coast. In a city where the rich can get away with anything and the cops don’t care about catching the right villain, a private investigator would never be short on cases. Veronica might be able to live without Neptune, but Neptune needs her. Time to turn on the Bat signal.
It took a long time, but writer-director Rob Thomas has successfully resurrected his witty and fierce female investigator, hopefully not for the last time. “Veronica Mars” the movie, is filled with great lines, thrills, dead bodies, bullets, and quite a few laughs. Welcome back.
(“Veronica Mars” is currently playing in select theatres and is available on demand.)