Movie Review #729
Directed by Rob Thomas. Screenplay by Rob Thomas & Diane Ruggiero. (Story: Rob Thomas. Characters: Rob Thomas.) Produced by Dan Etheridge, Danielle Stokdyk, and Rob Thomas, for Spondoolie Productions and Rob Thomas Productions, presented by Warner Bros. Digital. Starring Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Chris Lowell, Percy Daggs III, Tina Majorino, Krysten Ritter, Enrico Colantoni, Andrea Estella, Ken Marino, Francis Capra, Ryan Hansen, Daran Norris, Max Greenfield, Jerry O’Connell, Duane Daniels, Amanda Noret, Christine Lakin, and Lisa Thornhill. Credited cameo: Jamie Lee Curtis. Uncredited cameo: James Franco. Premiered at South by Southwest Film Festival on March 8, 2014. Special screenings in Mexico City, Stockholm, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney on March 13 and 14, 2014. Distributed by Warner Bros. and Warner Bros. Digital Distribution in wide release on March 14, 2014. Rated PG-13: sexuality including references, drug content, violence and some strong language. Runs 107 minutes.
Veronica Mars lives in the fictional town of Neptune, California. She claims it’s not just a place where movie stars go and hang out, but then again, her colleagues exchange stories about Brad Pitt, and she can contact James Franco pretty easily. Anyway, she’s retired from her life as a sleuth for a whole nine years. This matches the seven years that separate the third season of the neo-noir TV series Veronica Mars from the film adaptation/followup of the same name.
All I really know of the story is what Kristen Bell and company presented in this year’s version. I know that the three seasons of TV’s Veronica Mars (2004-2007) featured the titular heroine as a teenage sleuth, and I know that Veronica’s father became a private investigator after he lost his job as the sheriff in the beginning of the series. I also know that Veronica herself is a private eye, and that she began by helping out her father on his private investigations. But I don’t really “get it.” I don’t understand half of the back story in the movie, because the script chooses to give brief, shallow explanations of what happened throughout the course of the TV series. “Veronica Mars” is for fans of the character, and maybe only those fans. Those who hold little familiarity with the series will find the setup rather confusing.
Though the characters are rather interesting, and interesting enough to make me curious about the original series. The story, as well, possesses quite some intrigue. This is a neo-noir, but it’s an unusual one with a genuinely quirky screenplay. The search for the man or woman who murdered a certain celebrity (who Veronica knows from high school) is told with style and charisma from director Rob Thomas, who also co-writes, produces, and created the TV series. Editing and cinematography are worth their mention, too; they’re just about top-notch.
If only that story was told more pointedly, this would be a much more gripping movie. “Veronica Mars” suffers from movie ADHD, and eventually, it’s created enough subplots that it’s not longer a movie; it’s just a reincarnated season of the TV show, minimized to two hours. I’m getting the sense that the TV series was a cult phenomenon in its time, and that this movie version is the final execution of a plan held since its cancellation: to bring back Veronica’s character. Apparently that was basically all they wanted in this movie. Even with great performances from Kristen Bell and Krysten Ritter, plus everything else I’ve commended the film for, the newfangled, 2014 “Veronica Mars” feels like less than enough.
VERONICA MARS IS IN THEATERS. IT IS ALSO AVAILABLE THROUGH VIDEO ON DEMAND SERVICES.