'Veronica Mars' is fine as fan fodder
Fans of Veronica Mars, the TV series that aired for three seasons on UPN and its successor, the CW, have had this day marked on their digital calendars for months.
Some rabid fans have already seen this big-screen version because a contribution of $750 or more to the unprecedented Kickstarter campaign that financed the project earned them two tickets to the premiere in Austin last week. (More than 91,000 people put in money totaling $5.7 million for this film revival, seven years after the show was canceled.)
To those Mars devotees, Yahtzee! This film brings back star Kristen Bell, creator Rob Thomas, most of the familiar supporting cast, and all the wit and attitude that made you obsess over the girl private eye with the sharp tongue.
Just don't drag any of the uninitiated with you. They're going to have a hard time understanding what it is you're so passionate about.
The central event in the movie is the 10th reunion of Veronica's class at Neptune High (Go Pirates!), which is fitting because the gang's all here.
Roll call: Veronica's dad, Keith (Enrico Colantoni); Wallace (Percy Daggs III); Mac (Tina Majorino); Eli (Francis Capra); Dick (Ryan Hansen); Gia (Krysten Ritter); Madison (Amanda Noret); even Deputy Leo (Max Greenfield, now killing it on New Girl), although he's now a police detective in San Diego. (Apparently they don't do background checks.)
Sadly, Gia's father has no hand in the story. What movie isn't vastly improved by the presence of Steve Guttenberg?
But there's a rather distinguished batch of cameos for such a modestly budgeted film, including James Franco, Jerry O'Connell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kyle Bornheimer, and Bell's husband, Dax Shepard (Parenthood).
The MacGuffin in Veronica Mars is the murder of a troubled pop star. Logan (Jason Dohring), one of prime time's most enjoyably complicated bad boys, is the prime suspect. Veronica drops her boyfriend Piz (Chris Lowell) and her extremely promising law career in Manhattan to fly West as soon as Logan asks for her help.
Everyone slips right back into their old roles, except, curiously, Bell, who has not so much aged as matured past this character. It's a spotty performance. She appears engaged in some scenes, aloof in others.
Veronica Mars is a great deal more than a bonus episode, but slightly less than a movie. Because it is driven by character, not suspense, it has limited appeal to anyone beyond those who have been camped out in front of theaters all week to see it.
Veronica Mars **1/2 (out of four stars)
Directed by Rob Thomas. With Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni, and Francis Capra. Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 47 mins.
Parent's guide: PG-13 (adult themes, profanity, violence, drug abuse)
Playing at: area theaters