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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Film review: Veronica Mars

Posted by on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 2:52 PM

click to enlarge courtesy of Warner Bros. - KRISTIN BELL AS VERONICA MARS
  • Kristin Bell as Veronica Mars
  • courtesy of Warner Bros.
Veronica Mars
★★★

The story of the Kickstarter campaign that propelled Veronica Mars into movie theaters is hardly a secret. Over 91,000 “Marshmallows,” as the TV-show-turned-movie’s dedicated fans call themselves, chipped in for the chance to see their favorite character and her besties once more. Those fans turned out in force on Saturday at AMC Southpoint 17, the only area theater to show to film, lining up early for a matinee in their bright Kickstarter-funded t-shirts.

Veronica Mars, created by Rob Thomas and starring Kristen Bell, lasted for only three short seasons on television. Veronica was one of the cool kids at Neptune High. But when her best friend was murdered, her sheriff father’s pursuit of the town’s elite made her a pariah, to the point where she was vindictively date-raped at a party. Voted out of office, Keith Mars opened his own private detective agency, and Veronica pitched in to help solve two crimes in which she was intimately involved. The show had an appealing film-noir look and snarky first-person narration that spoke to teen outcasts and classic crime-thriller aficionados alike.

Brought to the big screen on an ultra-low budget by Hollywood standards ($5 million, plus marketing funds from Warner Bros.), the movie, unfortunately, looks like a TV show. The picture was dim and the sound was low, forcing the audience to strain to hear the dialogue over Aaron Paul’s revving engines in the adjacent theater, though it’s unclear whether this was an issue with the film’s production or the theater’s presentation. But that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the audience, who thrilled to every in-joke and cameo appearance.

Although there’s a series recap for new viewers at the beginning (leaving out the date rape, which fueled so much of Veronica’s rage), the film is certainly most enjoyable if you’re up to speed on all the minor characters and plot twists. The audience’s main disappointment seemed to be that it was too short: They would have gladly binged on another 13-hour season right there in the theater. In the TV series, digressions and character moments were key to the cult appeal, but this is straightforward solve-the-murder plotting, with no dog-nappings or other minor mysteries.

But what does it mean to say that Veronica Mars is “for the fans?” Doesn’t that have a whiff of sexist condescension, when one fan-friendly comic book movie after another is green-lighted without the aid of crowdfunding? Because Veronica Mars’ fans are largely female, are they are less deserving of another chapter in their idol’s story? The film is satisfying for the fans, with virtually all the characters returning and even more brooding looks from Veronica’s bad-boy ex, Logan Echolls, played by Jason Dohring. (Never mind that ridiculous military-enlistment subplot.)

It’s a solid three-or-more star entertainment for the Marshmallows, though is perhaps of limited interest to anyone else. But who’s to judge which niche audience is deserving of its pleasures? 

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