SXSW Film Review: Veronica Mars (USA, 2014)

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When such a well-loved TV series like Veronica Mars is given a new lease on life, it’s that much more special and significant when it is made possible by the fans. The Kickstarter campaign which saw a $2 million goal attained in rapid time brought the Kristen Bell-led cast back to loving arms of the fans who had followed the show over its original three season run and today at the Paramount Theatre, a huge chunk of fans were treated to the end result – a thank you in the form of the World Premiere of the Veronica Mars movie.

It’s evident from the onstart that this is a movie which has the capacity to entertain both long-time fans of the show and newcomers, with a quick rehash at the beginning to reintroduce the titular character and how the show developed from the start. We see Veronica (Bell) at the beginning of this story, while very much a grown up – being interviewed by a top law firm in New York – is still the same hilariously clever-witted character fans fell for originally. Nine years on from conclusion of the third season, Veronica makes no qualms in narrating to the audience her desire to leave Neptune and the dramas which were attached well in her past. But, of course, there’s always a way to draw our heroine back to the original landscape – murder, a case needing the Mars touch, and a tall glass of complicated water (now in the US navy) named Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring). Comparing herself to her alcoholic mother, Veronica admits she too is an addict and within a few sequences, she’s back in her hometown and falls rather comfortably back into old habits.

Rob Thomas and co have done a wonderful job in bringing back or slyly featuring nods to the original series (the busker playing an acoustic version of “We Used To Be Friends” as Veronica approaches a newsstand, Kickstarter being referenced through a radio broadcast etc), and these don’t go unnoticed by the audience, prompting multiple laughs and applause. Veronica’s reunion with her father Keith, wonderfully brought back to life onscreen by Enrico Colantoni and her friends Wallace and Mac (Percy Daggs III and Tina Majorino) are nicely done without being too cheesy. Some dialogue comes across as being overdone or too knowing, but the pace that the film travels at doesn’t allow for many of these moments.

The main plotline of Logan’s new murder charge, the reignition of the obvious flame that still exists between himself and Veronica and the revisiting of the Neptune High crowd produced some great moments of comedy and drama, but there is definitely a more mature edge to the execution of the script that sets Veronica Mars apart from your usual reunion type film. That age-old trope of the protagonist battling the familiarity and comfort of their past and the seemingly proper path they should be looking ahead to is adopted here, and Bell does well in acting out this internal tug of war Veronica battles as the film goes on.

There are laughs, there are deaths and there are many moments of nostalgia in the film adaptation of Veronica Mars – the crowd gasped, whooped and screamed at all the right moments. It’s not breaking new ground in any way, but the conclusion of the film definitely throws the door wide open for any opportunities to explore more stories within the Veronica Mars universe. The cast fit together like a great puzzle, each bringing something to the table. Krysten Ritter is great, as is Ryan Hansen – two characters who remain on the fringe for the first part of the film become more prominent and are given great moments in the spotlight. Gaby Hoffman is brilliant as an obsessive fan (her ‘date’ with Logan is probably one of the best scenes), while James Franco and Dax Shepard have cameos which are definitely memorable too.

If the thunderous applause in the Paramount was anything to go by, Veronica Mars is set to be a wide success once released (March 14th). A perfect love letter to the fans who made it possible, the movie was an enjoyable watch, even with a run time of near on two hours. “My name is Veronica Mars and I am an addict. Hello Veronica.” narrates Bell, as her character eyes the camera for the last time – it’s a moment of content that she’d finally found her place and was comfortable with it and funnily enough, it was like being in this arena with hundreds of Mars lovers was just that place.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Veronica Mars was reviewed at the World Premiere at SXSW in Austin, Texas and will receive a limited theatrical release in Australia from March 14th, 2014.