“A teenaged private eye. Trust me, I know how dumb that sounds.” So begins the Veronica Mars movie, immediately establishing both the premise and tone of Rob Thomas’ (not the singer) greatest hit.
7 years after the cult femme noir TV show ended in slightly disappointing fashion, this 2014 feature was crowdfunded by a record number of Kickstarter backers. Set 9 years on, Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) has swapped her gumshoes for heels, embarking on a career with a New York law firm (cue Jamie Lee Curtis cameo), only to throw it all away to pursue her love of compulsive meddling, serial slut-shaming and (in one episode) casual racism. She’s basically her unreformed character from The Good Place but with a script editor.
So Veronica returns to Neptune to prove her ex-boyfriend Logan’s (Jason Dohring) innocence. Again. Neptune is one of those Californian towns, like Back to the Future‘s Hill Valley, where the same events seem to recur on an infinite loop. Thomas has fun with this idea by replacing Sheriff Don Lamb with his brother Dan Lamb, and making Mars’ return coincide with her high school reunion, conveniently assembling all the characters: Keith (Enrico Colantoni), Weevil (Francis Capra), Wallace (Percy Daggs III) and Mac (Tina Majorino).
Rather than welcoming newcomers à la Serenity, this is a film for the fans (AKA Marshmallows) who paid for it and who are accustomed to the town’s contrivances, which are writ large in this big-screen adaptation. Or at least they would be if the movie had a cinematic release. It’s more like a feature-length episode, whose mystery only exists to get Mars back to Neptune. The case itself makes little impression, other than to wisely expand Krysten Ritter’s role.
Wallace and particularly Mac get little to do, even though it was their Scoobying that provided much of the show’s Buffy–without-the-vampires charm. But while Buffy went from strength to strength, Veronica Mars never really worked out how to graduate high school. Perversely this makes her journey of regression a step in the right direction, and proves more satisfying than the series’ ending, resetting the format for the show’s return next year. To quote the annoyingly catchy theme song: Bring it on. Bring it on. Yeah.