The highly-anticipated, “game-changing” Veronica Mars Movie is what I imagine it must be like to have a one-night stand with an ex-lover with whom you still have immense affection. Dinner is casual, easy, and lovely, while the sex afterwards is just like old times: Same smell, same moves, same comfort, same mind-blowing lovemaking. It’s not until it’s over, however, that you realize, in the nine years since you broke up for logistical reasons, that nothing has ever really changed. There’s nothing new or different, and while the thrill of nostalgia makes it an almost perfect night, there’s nothing there to really compel you to seek out another long-term relationship. A promise, perhaps, to meet back and do it again in five years, but no real desire to get back together. “It was great to see you. I had an amazing night. We should do it again sometime!”
That’s the Veronica Mars Movie in a nutshell: Everything you loved about the series makes its return, and they make all the callbacks you’d hope to see, and it’s warm and comfortable and funny and perfect, but there’s absolutely nothing new here. But really, honestly, that’s OK: It was a fan-funded Kickstarter movie, and Rob Thomas graciously made precisely the movie that the fans wanted to see, even if it came at the expense of making a great movie that might appeal to fans and non-fans alike.
In fact, if you haven’t seen the series, you’ll understand where all the inside-joke cues are, but much of what makes the Veronica Mars Movie so great will likely go right over your head, and without the context of the series, there’s not much here likely to convert non-fans. It’s not a crossover film. Like the less than spectacular third season was, the movie is not designed to broaden the appeal of the character. It’s a 90-minute episode, a really great series finale that finally gives the show some much needed closure (while still leaving the door slightly ajar for more).
The story centers around the murder investigation of Logan Echolls’ pop-star girlfriend, for which Logan is the prime suspect. Though they haven’t spoke in nine years, and though Veronica lives in New York City with her boyfriend, Piz, and is interviewing for law firm positions after having graduated law school, Veronica drops everything and returns to Neptune to help Logan escape conviction. The investigation puts her back in touch with her two best friends, Mac — now a software engineer — and Wallace, a teacher. A high-school reunion and a corrupt Neptune police department brings everyone else back in the fold, as well, and though their screentime varies, all the major — and most of the minor — characters we’d expect to see resurface in some fashion, in addition to a couple of other fun cameos from Bell’s husband Dax Shepard and James Franco, who plays himself.
The investigation unfolds in mostly predictable ways, but the storyline is almost beside the point. Veronica Mars is not a movie designed to break new narrative ground; it’s designed to give an opportunity to fans of the series to spend another couple of hours with these characters, and to that end, it’s a wild success. Kickstarter backers are going to be immensely pleased with the final product, and even more pleased with the ability to download the film. There are so many callbacks that repeat viewing may be necessary to catch them all, while some are so good that they’re worth a second viewing to re-experience them. Like its fans, Veronica Mars is very much a marshmallow of a film: Light, fluffy, and sweet. It’s nothing but empty calories, but it’s too warm and delicious to put up much of a complaint.
Veronica Mars premiered at the 2014 SXSW Film Festival in Austin.