I saw a good episode of Veronica Mars in a movie theatre a few days ago. This new movie, famously funded by its fans through Kickstater, was directed by series creator Rob Thomas (not the Matchbox 20 guy, different Rob Thomas) and is filled almost entirely with two shots of people engaged in dialogue, feeling very much like a TV show in this era where TV shows are starting to feel like movies. But the dialogue was good and, as a fan of the series, I enjoyed seeing the characters again.
I saw it with my sister with whom I used to watch the series before it was cancelled in 2007 after its third season. We saw the movie at the nearby AMC where they have really amazing red upholstered recliner seats and a bar--I had a double Glenlivet, neat, which I had to remind the bartender meant without ice. But the seats alone made the experience nicer than staying at home where we could have watched the movie since it was released On Demand the same day it was released in theatres. I guess since fans were footing the bill, Warners decided this would be a good opportunity to experiment. The jury, from what I hear, is still out on whether or not this was successful.
But that means I can take screenshots, not that there are many interesting ones since, as I said, the film mostly seems to be two-shots. The virtue of Veronica Mars was always the dialogue and the character development. And the whodunits which were usually clever enough, and the movie features a decent murder mystery. Kristen Bell returns as Veronica and she's as good as ever though somehow I didn't feel as anchored in her point of view as I did when watching the show. The character, in the show and movie, gives voice over narration in homage to the classic noir style and for a series clearly aimed at teenagers it managed a nice enough ode to Raymond Chandler.
The first season, as a lot of shows seem to be doing lately, also took a great deal of inspiration from Twin Peaks--the season which also featured individual, one episode mysteries, featured a season-long mystery revolving around the murder of Veronica's friend Lilly played by Amanda Seyfried in flashbacks. Like Laura Palmer, Lilly was revealed to be a character beloved by and connected to many while also being caught up in something dark and terrible. As much as I like Amanda Seyfried (see Chloe), the flashbacks in the first season mainly served to instruct the viewer on why Twin Peaks was wise in avoiding flashbacks to the murder victim--the one time we see a flashback to Laura Palmer, in the second episode, directed by Duwayne Dunham, it came off really badly. But more importantly, it's hard to miss a character who won't go away.
The great thing about Veronica Mars was how strong the voice of Veronica was. She had plot and trope stuff attached to her--she had been raped by a mystery assailant, she was a girl detective. Bell and Thomas successfully made these aspects of a human life rather than cheap fodder for a young adult drama.
Veronica in the movie seemed like she needed a few more episodes to find her footing again. In the show, she had plenty of catty dialogue with people that was often compared to the work of Joss Whedon (who appeared in a cameo on the series). Her comebacks in the movie were a bit weak--like when one douchy, shirtless guy asks her if she had a breast job (Kirsten Bell has gotten noticeably and not unflatteringly curvier since the series) to which she lamely replies, "No, have you?" to the guy who appears to be in perfect shape.
But there are plenty of fun moments in the movie, like when Veronica gains access to a suspect's home by pretending to be a movie location scout or when her love interest, Logan (Jason Dohring), very obviously hides a camera in a Free Hugs hat.
There are a few nice celebrity cameos. James Franco plays himself--essentially the Hollywood egomaniac version of himself he played in This is the End.
But this really needed to be the premiere of a new season for the series rather than a movie. Even with sequels, I suspect Thomas and Bell won't be able to generate the narrative momentum necessary. Still, it was nice to see Veronica again.