Life has never been easy for Veronica Mars. Her best friend was murdered, her father was pushed from office for pursuing lines of investigation which led straight back to the wealthy families associated with the case which in turn caused Veronica to lose most of her friends even as she conducted her own investigation, and worst of all, her television show was cancelled. Running for three seasons from fall 2004 to summer 2007, Veronica Mars was not an easy sell to a network, with the first two seasons each focusing on a single primary investigation, a format which encouraged audience loyalty but made it difficult to attract casual viewers, leading to the looser format of the final year as Veronica entered college.
Never ranking high in the ratings, the viewership was constant across the three seasons, and the show impressed not only the critics but also key figures in popular culture, notable among them Joss Whedon, who even made a cameo appearance. That Veronica Mars appealed to the same audience as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, even extending to the creator of that show, is no surprise: both are petite blondes, smart, sassy, capable, frequently underestimated, and know the pain of being the outcast among their peers, never allowed to participate in the daily rituals of high school life.
Like Sunnydale High, Neptune High sat atop its own brand of Hellmouth, where the rich and connected preyed on the less well trust funded, where the offspring of software industrialists and movie stars honed the life skills of gossiping, taunting others and flaunting their wealth, the façade of beauty sometimes not even skin deep as they would play games with the futures of other students, sometimes even teachers.
Veronica (Kristen Bell) survived because she was smart and because she gathered around her a group of friends she could trust; Wallace Fennel (Percy Daggs III), Cindy “Mac” Mackenzie (Tina Majorino), Eli “Weevil” Navarro (Francis Capra) and most surprisingly Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring). On the surface one of the most spoiled of the moneyed “09er” crowd, the tragedies that unfolded around Logan and Veronica brought them together and showed him to be a genuinely loyal and caring individual, an apple who fell far from the long shadow of his family tree.
Now graduated from university, living in New York City and interviewing for prestigious law firms, Veronica has left her life as a teenage sleuth long ago, but when news of the death of a former Neptune classmate reaches her, the phone call from Logan, prime suspect in the murder investigation, is not far behind.
Her visit coinciding with the reunion she had studiously been avoiding, Veronica’s homecoming reveals she is still the most unpopular girl after school but also that Neptune has taken a turn for the worse, with the police force formerly run by the inept Sheriff Don Lamb now under the auspices of his corrupt brother Dan (Jerry O’Connell). “It’s the Neptune way, protecting and serving the highest bidder.”
Believing Logan to be innocent, Veronica finds the authorities hostile to her probing, that her obvious suspect has an alibi, and that the circle of friends of the late Bonnie DeVille may have colluded to conceal evidence in a previous missing persons case, but back in her hometown and confronted with the aftermath of her relationship with Logan, a man she has not spoken to in nine years yet whose number is programmed into her phone, Veronica finds her past catching up with her in other ways.
Accustomed to fighting against the odds, on this occasion Veronica has more friends than she can count, 91,845 of them, her Kickstarter supporters who raised $5,702,153 to fund production of the film. The directorial debut of series creator Rob Thomas, from a script co-written with series producer Diane Ruggiero, it has not deviated from the style of the show and is perhaps too reliant on coincidence and may fail to break new ground for the characters, but as a gift to the fans who financed the production it could not be more perfect, a step back into a world they had long abandoned any hope of visiting again.
With Veronica’s background explained in a brief introduction no prior knowledge of the show is required, though for those who have become intimate with the intricate web of Neptune socialites there will be considerably more reward, though the most entertaining scene, where Veronica attempts to charm information from the only police contact she can trust, the handsome officer Leo D’Amato (Max Greenfield), possibly plays better without familiarity of their previous friendship.
Beyond the reunited principal cast, many supporting players, some who originally only appeared in a handful of episodes, have also returned to reprise their roles, some only for a single scene, others in the most important moments their characters have ever played, though at times the film does feel too much like a catwalk as a procession of beautiful traverse the screen in their designer clothes. Regrettably, prior obligations meant Leighton Meester was unavailable to return to the key role of Carrie Bishop, former gossip queen of Neptune High now played by Andrea Estella and reborn as a troubled singer with a dark past.
Underpinning the film is one of the warmest father/daughter relationships to ever grace the screen, with Enrico Colantoni’s former sheriff turned private investigator Keith Mars welcoming Veronica back to the fold in typical style, offering advice and support but always allowing her to make her own decisions, even when he vehemently disagrees with them. Veronica may be his child, but he has never treated her as one, and having learned all her investigative skills from him, he cannot fault her abilities.
That said, Veronica is out of practice at the detection game, and with her judgement clouded she makes mistakes. She has placed herself in danger before, but usually her modus operandi requires her to have the ace firmly in the hole before she makes her move, though the dramatic structure of feature film format demands the requisite final reel tension, and certainly the film becomes more intense as it progresses with the jeopardy extending beyond Veronica herself and a clear direction laid for a return to Neptune should a second reunion be greenlit.
With the reinstatement of the original version of the Dandy Warhols’ theme tune over the closing credits a final gift to the fans, this is a welcome return of an ensemble deserving a far wider audience where the long term followers can justifiably claim proud prior association; a long
time ago, we used to be friends.
Veronica Mars is now available for download and is on limited theatrical release