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A Veronica Mars Movie Review from a Neptune Newbie

Review

Hi. My name’s Rebecca, and I never saw a single episode of Veronica Mars before watching the movie. I knew it was “California noir” with a teenage detective whose actress likes sloths and a guy named Logan and Mathesar from Galaxy Quest and planet puns and something about marshmallows? But for the most part, I went in cold. In a few minutes Jill, a fan of the show (who’s been trying to get me to watch it for months now, and fine, you were right, JILL), will have her own review of the film up. [Edit: Here ’tis! But for now: Tumble down the rabbit hole with a Neptune newbie.

Tl;dr—since watching the movie early Saturday afternoon I’ve binged the first eleven episodes of the show. It’s fair to say I liked it.

There are some VAGUE SPOILERS behind the cut.

In general, Veronica Mars was solid and entertaining, with a unexceptional yet serviceable plot about former teen PI Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) returning to her hometown of Neptune, California to solve one last case when her former friend/boyfriend/adversary/it’s complicated Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) gets accused of murder. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t mean “unexceptional yet serviceable” in any sort of negative sense. I get bombarded with ~*~EPIC~*~ and ~*~PLOT TWIST-FILLED~*~ stories at the movie theater all year round (and on the BBC when Doctor Who is on). And while those can be good, sometimes I just want a small story with interesting, well-developed characters, dammit. That’s what the Veronica Mars movie gave me. Even if, like me, you’ve never seen the show, watching it is by no means a bad way to spend an hour and a half.

I absolutely would have gotten more out of the movie if I’d watched the show, which is about what I expected going in. The first 25 minutes or so felt like I was wallflowering it up at a party full of old friends, enemies, and acquaintances, eavesdropping on their conversations and understanding the basics but feeling no particular emotional attachment to any of the individuals involved. But eventually it got to the point where even though I didn’t know these people—didn’t get why everyone was gasping at the redhead in the fancy car or have a reason to awwww when Veronica’s old high school principal shows up—they were still a pretty cool group of people, and I wouldn’t mind embarrassing myself by jumping in to do the Macarena with them. (That happens at other people’s parties, right?) The movie is chock full of references, in-jokes, and cameos (is that Mr. Adorable Werewolf from the U.S. Being Human?!), but far from being annoyed at all the things I didn’t understand, I just wanted to know more about Neptune and its inhabitants.

One thing that I never quite managed to get in to was the voiceover. Maybe I’ve read too many screenwriting books slamming the technique for being the prop of lazy writers. I get that it’s a stylistic choice for the Veronica Mars movie, a throwback to noir movies, but in my opinion they relied on it too much. It works for a 47-minutes TV episode. Not so much for a 107-minute movie. There are only so many times we need to hear Veronica expounding upon her motivations and inner conflicts. I hate to sound like a Screenwriting 101 instructor, but: Show, don’t tell.

I feel like the element that I missed  out on the most from not having watched the show was Veronica’s relationships with Piz (Chris Lowell) and Logan, the other two sides of the obligatory teen show love triangle. I imagine that people who watched the show and saw Veronica and Piz’s relationship develop might have been invested in how it turns out in the movie, but I couldn’t be bothered, because Piz is boring as hell. Is he any more interesting in the show? I know people like him, but just based on what was in the movie I can’t understand why. Boy is mayonnaise.

His relationship with Veronica, for me, was the weakest part of the film, because it had that distinct stench of CW-style manufactured melodrama. After years of being a couple in a by all indications happy and trouble-free relationship, Piz gets all ticked that Veronica wants to go back home and help Logan catch his girlfriend’s killer instead of sticking around in New York to start her new life and meet his parents. But did he miss the part where there’s a killer on the loose, and Veronica’s the only one even vaguely interested in catching them? Push back your dinner date with Ma and Pa, boy!

It’s a deeper issue than that, of course. They both want different things for their future and maybe care about each other in a different way (am I stepping on the toes of Team Piz here?). But that’s something I wanted to see them discuss. What we got instead was the shorthand version: Several scenes of Piz being sad and teary-eyed before eventually [SPOILERS].

Similarly, we know from the “Here’s what you missed on Veronica Mars!” intro that Veronica and Logan used to have a tempestuous relationship. In the movie, however, that drama has been left behind along with early ’00s fashion and teenage hormones. They… get along. But for some reason—maybe just the fact that Logan was in the movie more and got more character development—the history of their relationship felt more real to me, while Veronica/Piz felt like I was getting Cliff’s Notes. I’d feel cheated if, as I said, Piz didn’t make me want to lean back in my creaky theater chair and go to sleep. As it is, I feel kinda bad for fans of his character. To this Veronica Mars newbie, anyway, it looks like he got the short end of the stick.

But the voiceover and the Piz Problem were, for me, relatively minor weak spots. As a whole, I loved the movie. It felt like filmed fanfic, and I mean that in the best possible way: No pretension. No trying too hard for something new and “egdy” and “YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS BEFORE you have seen this exactly seven hundred thousand times.” Just enjoyment. Just fun. Just intriguing characters bouncing off each other for a while. And if you don’t love them yet, you will.

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