A long time ago, we used to be friends…
Ah, the mantra of Rob Thomas’ cult television series about a murder, betrayal and memorable one-liners. The show launched the career of Kristen Bell back in 2004 proving female driven scripts could be great and still hilarious in a post-Buffy the Vampire Slayer world. But what if you’ve never seen the show? Had no interested in a spunky blonde teen private eye? Yet now you’re curious about a movie that was financed (at least, partially) by a massively successful Kickstarter campaign? Look no further, non-marshmallows; all you need to know before getting rapt in the sass and wit that is Veronica Mars lies below!
Obviously, spoilers on the entire show’s run to follow:
1. The Film Opens With the TV Equivalent of “Previously, on Veronica Mars…”
Though the show aired for three seasons (2004-2007) the cold open in the movie suggests that the only real important stuff to know about happened in the first season, otherwise known as the best one. Back then, junior-year Veronica (Kristen Bell) was out to solve the murder of her best friend, Lilly Kane, who was seen in faux-colored flashbacks by soon to be starlet Amanda Seyfried. Veronica’s dad Keith (the awesome Enrico Calantoni) was the former county sheriff of the sleepy Long Beach-like town of Neptune.
Now, both he and his daughter are town pariahs when the Kane murder case was botched. Armed with her trusty digital SLR, her dog Backup and some new pals, Veronica revealed by thenend of the season that the killer of Lilly was none other than famous Hollywood actor Aaron Echolls (played by former L.A. Law star Harry Hamlin), the father of Veronica’s ex, the broody, misunderstood Logan (Jason Dohring). Throughout the first season, there’s a possible incest plotline, roofies, and a Latino biker gang lead by the broody misunderstood ‘Weevil’ (Francis Capra). In fact, that’s kind of the theme of the show as a whole; we’re all a little broody, a little misunderstood. Veronica’s strength via creator Rob Thomas and Bell’s performance is her pluck and razor-sharp wit that rises above normal teen angst tropes. Veronica’s verbal sparring matches against the rich and the poor never disappointed. The gal had balls.
2. The Returning Series Regulars Are, Thankfully, Only the Good Ones.
Dick Casablancas (Ryan Hansen) – Every fan’s favorite jerk. He’s Logan’s best pal and way entitled. The flask belt buckle he dons in the film is a perfect fit for Dick.
Cindy “Mac” Mackenzie (Tina Majorino) – The token hack geek gal that aids Mars on her investigations, Majorino who played her was a real find for the show. Think Willow, but never got angsty or witchy.
Wallace (Pacy Daggs III) – With all due respect to the actor, Wallace should have been killed off by season one. He’s great in the pilot, but ends up not much to do.
Vice Principal Van Clemmons (Duane Daniels) – This guy, I can’t get enough of. Or rather, I can’t get enough of Veronica’s way of playing him. From the pilot…
Leo D’Amato (Max Greenfield) – Yup, Schmidt from New Girl played a hunky deputy way back when. He was barely on the show, but his appearance in the film is welcome nonetheless.
Piz (Chris Lowell) – The snoozefest-bland good guy that Veronica is currently dating.
Gia Goodman (Kristen Ritter) – Before Walter White let her overdose, she was Gia, who has more in common with Ritter’s most recent ABC stint as the B in apt. 23.
Vinnie Van Lowe (Ken Marino) – The Joker to Veronica’s Dark Knight if Joker were just a clueless clown detective. Marino was also exceptional on another Rob Thomas show, Party Down.
Dax Shepard – Bell’s real-life husband slash baby daddy. Wordless cameo. Works for me, Crosby.
MIA… why no appearance by Desmond Fellows, the aged rocker played by Paul Rudd, who coincidentally co-created Party Down with Rob Thomas? Rudd would have familiar to non-Mars fans.
Then again, this next guy is pretty well known….
3. James Franco: Best Addition Who Needs No Introduction.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I am still quite amused when Franco plays himself – or at least a riff on his celebrity version of himself.
Also new to the series: Jamie Lee Curtis, perennial nerd Martin Starr (who also starred in Party Down), and *sigh* Justin Long.
4. About the Season Two/Three Stuff, Don’t Bother.
Peppered through the 100 min run-time are fragments of allusions to the last two seasons. The only really important stuff is to know who Gia is – which you will since she’s a big character for the film – and that Keith Mars was briefly county sheriff again in season three, but once again was ousted. I’m sure some Marshmallow (term for VM uber-fans) will comment about all the things I left out, but my goal here is just to get newly Neptuned visitors up to speed.
5. The FBI Comment That’s an Easter Egg of Sorts, and Cool to View.
After the CW cancelled Veronica Mars, Rob Thomas made this twelve-minute presentation to highlight what a post-college Mars show could be. Naturally, she joins the FBI. In the film, she doesn’t but it’s hinted at. Here’s the clip!
6. I Know What You Did Last Summer-like Mystery Is Solid, but Nowhere Near as Engaging as a Whole Season Arc, Obviously.
The best big story in the Mars universe is, hands-down season one. (Two and three were kinda meh.) The movie story had to be something that could be wrapped up in under two hours, and for anyone new to the show it’s a pretty good entry tale. The big reveal ain’t all that, but for fans and soon to be fans the whole thing’s a tour de force for Bell. Her comic timing is still unpredictable in the best way possible. Just don’t try to think about how realistic it is that it all comes down to Veronica attending her ten-year high school reunion.
7. Okay, Still Not Sure? Well Think About how You Felt When Folks Didn’t Care About That Serenity Film…
Of course the biggest reason this was even made because the fans supported it financially through Kickstarter. (WB put up the other half ot the 6 mil on the condition that the campaign would raise at least 3.) Word has been spreading that Firefly might fly again as a show or film if Whedon and his crew do their own Kickstarter thing. Tell ya what, readers: if Firefly is revived I promise to support it, if browncoats will agree to support the Veronica Mars movie in return. I think fellow geeks like us should bond. Yup. I can’t guarantee I’ll get any of the others to go along with my plan…but I’ll guarantee to do my best. That’s worth something, right?
As for the Veronica Mars movie, if this is the last we ever see of Neptune’s residents I’m fine with it. The send off, I admit, made me a little teary. Aw, Veronica, you’ve made a real marshmallow of me…
Oh, and go see it in a theater. You could just VOD it, but fans and noobs should buy a ticket instead. Why? Well for fans, it gives ya’ll a chance to see it with other fans. For those new to Neptune, same reason. Think of it like seeing a band you never heard of with a fan. Lastly, I’m a traditional guy. Veronica Marsmight not be as cinematically epic as Gravity, but all films should be seen on the big screen.
Previously by Peter Paras: