Movie Review - Veronica Mars

I've spent the better part of a year thinking that the line that separates film and television is disappearing more and more with the only difference being amount of time. Even though logically it shouldn't be a criticism, this film feels like an episode of television. It might be more due to the fact that TV has been dominated with police procedural or detective shows. Given that this film is based on a TV series that was a detective show, I suppose it should feel that way. In that, it succeeds in being faithful to the original spirit.

The problem is that except for the ending, the rest of the movie feels so inconsequential. It feels like there are no stakes and that nothing truly matters. The deaths of certain characters or the almost death of certain characters feel like they have no real force of gravity.

Kristen Bell stars as Veronica Mars, the daughter of a private detective who became a high school gumshoe. It's now a decade since she's left her hometown of Neptune, California, and she's applying for a job at a big-time law firm in New York City with her current boyfriend Piz, played by Chris Lowell.

She's invited to her 10-year high school reunion, which she declines, but she decides to return to Neptune when her ex-boyfriend Logan, played by Jason Dohring, is accused of killing his current girlfriend Bonnie DeVille. The reason she declines the reunion is because she doesn't want to get sucked back into her old life, but it's rather inevitable that she will.

Director and co-writer Rob Thomas makes it clear that Veronica is an addict and her drug of choice is being a private eye. Yet, it's never made clear why she couldn't be one in New York and why it had to be Neptune. Maybe the answer lies in the TV series, which might be required viewing in order to understand and enjoy this film.

The relationships in general feel hollow and the benefit of watching the series would probably help but there's not enough here to justify most of, if any of the actions. The so-called love triangle between Veronica, Piz and Logan was totally hollow. I didn't buy Veronica's relationship with Piz, which is probably the point, but I also didn't buy her supposed attraction to Logan. Despite her history with him, which the opening narration conveys but never sells, I don't get why Veronica would do all this for him. One would hope Bell and Dohring's performances would be enough, but it's not.

I guess I wasn't convinced that these people had that much chemistry. Bell is always delightful. She's plucky. She's witty. She's confident. She's strong. She's beautiful, but her attraction to Logan wasn't coming across all that well.

It's mainly because I don't get that much from Dohring. I'm not sure if it's the actor or if it's Thomas not giving him enough material here. I'm leaning on the latter. Logan found his girlfriend dead and he's on the hook for her murder. Yet, it doesn't seem to affect him much. It's probably because the police in this film are either corrupt, incompetent or don't care about solving the murder either.

Yes, this is a movie about how Veronica Mars is the detective that's ahead of everyone. Thomas wants to emphasize how much Veronica is needed, but I'm not sure it helps to make the police feel so useless. When a cop character dies, I didn't care. The character comes from the series, so affection for that character is probably ingrained to fans of the series, but here that character's death just doesn't resonate. It also doesn't help that two seconds later Veronica is having sex and not caring about that character's death either.

The cameos from James Franco and Jerry O'Connell are awkward. Franco is yet again in a movie playing himself. I wonder if the joke is now that James Franco can do nothing else but play himself in movies. Veronica Mars is like Murder, She Wrote geared toward the CW network and partially written trying to invoke the spirit of Joss Whedon. If you'd prefer to see a better film about a teenage gumshoe, watch Brick (2005).

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for sexuality including references, drug content, violence and some strong language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 47 mins.


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