The “Veronica Mars” movie was released on Friday, in a limited number of theaters, via various digital and On Demand platforms, and through digital downloads that came as one of the Kickstarter rewards. (Though I understand there have been some glitches with that.) I already reviewed the film in advance, but there are certain things I didn't want to talk about until many of you had seen it. So spoilers coming up just as soon as I'm a Hooters barback…
The best thing about the movie was how much it made me want to see another one – not just because I thought Rob Thomas, Diane Ruggiero and Kristen Bell did such a great job of making Veronica work as an adult character, but because the unusual circumstances of this movie's creation meant it had to be made in a very particular way.
I respect the idea that Thomas wanted to throw many bones to the fans who had loved the show and its characters, and I certainly had a blast seeing Veronica trading insults with Madison again, or hearing Veronica compliment Deputy Sacks on rocking his 'stache until it came back into style. Thomas wanted to give the people what they wanted, and I'm one of those people, too. But there were definitely moments where the plot became an afterthought to making sure everybody got their curtain call. The scene with Leo is one of the most entertaining in the movie, because Max Greenfield has grown so much as a comic performer since he was on the show, and because he and Bell have such great chemistry, but it also didn't really need to be there, any more than most of the business with the tablet camera that brought back Vinnie Van Lowe (without, for some reason, mentioning that the series ended with him on the verge of succeeding Keith as sheriff). The actual mystery involving the murders of Susan Knight and Carrie Bishop(*) was just enough to provide an excuse for Veronica's return and all that followed, but we know from the series how good the show can be at plot, and plot definitely took a backseat to giving everyone their moment.
(*) It's a shame Leighton Meester couldn't have played Carrie again. She only appeared a couple of times – most notably in “Mars vs. Mars,” the episode that also deals with the baby Susan gave up (fathered by creepy teacher Adam Scott) – but I think the case would have had slightly more weight if it was her, whether or not people remembered her all that vividly in this role.
And, again, I enjoyed those moments. I laughed like everyone else when Veronica called up Wallace to ask for a copy of someone's permanent file like no time had passed. I liked hearing Korny talk about selling duct tape wallets on Etsy, loved every douchetastic second Dick Casablancas was on screen(**), etc. And the character arc of Veronica throwing away her life as a successful and happy rookie lawyer to get back into the muck of being a Neptune private eye was excellent, both in terms of her relationship with Keith and throwing away the good thing she had with Piz(***) to jump back into the ring of fire with Logan.
(**) At the PaleyFest panel, I asked Thomas why Veronica tolerates Dick's presence ever, given how wrathful she is and how horrible he has been to her. (In “A Trip to the Dentist,” for instance, we see him trying to talk Beaver into raping her while she's passed out from GHB.) He laughed sheepishly and said that Ryan Hansen was the writing staff's Kryptonite, and that they loved writing for Dick so much that they hoped everyone would ignore his past sins and what Veronica might actually do to him in response. Which, I suppose, makes him the “Veronica Mars” equivalent of Spike from “Buffy.”
(***) Did any of the Piz-haters feel sympathy for the poor guy by the time of his final phone call with Veronica? I was ambivalent about him back in season 3, but felt he served a very effective purpose here. (Also, Chris Lowell is part of the very funny and sweet “Enlisted,” which you absolutely should be watching.)
But now that they've done the fan service movie, I'd really like to see what Thomas and company can do simply telling a kick-ass “Veronica Mars” mystery, one that will work in beloved characters when necessary, but that won't have to bend or pause so that, say, Duncan Kane or Parker can get their moment. The movie leaves a lot dangling in terms of the rampant police corruption in Neptune – the car crash that injures Keith and kills Sacks nearly knocked me out of my seat the first time I watched the movie – how that relates to Weevil's case, and obviously what's next for Veronica and Logan once he returns from his latest deployment. Thomas says Warner Bros. has told him the box office number the movie has to hit in order to make a sequel, but there are other variables like home video or perhaps something like Netflix (which could greenlight a series of low-budget movies to be made in between Bell and other people's commitments). The movie made me completely invested in the adventures of an adult Veronica, and I hope this isn't the last we see of her in screen form.
Some other thoughts:
* Of the major new characters, I really enjoyed Gaby Hoffmann as Ruby (the bitter way she delivered Veronica's “dance better” advice from high school captured an awful lot of what made her tick) and wish Martin Starr had gotten more to do as Cobb. It's a tricky thing, in that the movie had so many other characters to deal with, and if this guy we've never seen before (even if he was supposed to be sitting in the back of the classroom when Veronica and Wallace were at Neptune High) starts getting too much prominence, it's a dead giveaway that he's the bad guy, especially since Starr is a pretty recognizable guy (and worked with Hansen and Ken Marino on Thomas' “Party Down”).
* The celebrity cameos (like Dax Shepard coming onto his sloth-loving wife) were amusing but probably unnecessary, other than Jamie Lee Curtis and perhaps James Franco playing the role of “James Franco,” effete weirdo. Was pleased to see Eden Sher from “The Middle” as his assistant, though. Then again, Dave “Gruber” Allen (a double “Freaks and Geeks”/”Party Down” reunion with Starr) was great as Cobb's hippie neighbor – I was on set for the filming of that scene, and Starr had trouble not laughing as Allen did variations on his dialogue – and I can't be the only one around here who was happy to see Ethel Beavers from “Parks and Rec” as Ruby's landlady.
* I cannot overstate how good Enrico Colantoni is in this movie. His look of stunned joy at seeing Veronica in the office was marvelous, his concern over Veronica throwing what he saw as her life away helped sell the darkness of the movie's big character story and he was, throughout, badass in the way he always was as Keith Mars. And his reaction to Piz having spent the night with Veronica was a comic gem. (As was Veronica's counter-banter about their tantric lovemaking.)
* Veronica isn't the only one who gets sucked back into old patterns. Getting shot and having to clear his name puts Weevil back on a bike for the first time since his daughter was born, and with the rest of the PCHers for the first time since high school. And though Wallace is being a responsible grown-up (for now), Mac is once again doing Veronica's hacker bidding. (Between her job at Kane Software and Weevil's legal case, I'd say there's a decent chance Jake Kane turns up again in a hypothetical sequel, or at least in one of the Veronica sequel books.)
* Fantastic Dick Casbalancas moment: he takes a swig from his belt buckle flask before wading into the brawl to help Logan, then hollers, “Welcome to the BC, bitch!” (for Balboa County) as he begins throwing punches.
* I loved the sequence where Logan drives Veronica over the bridge as the soundtrack plays Sufjan Stevens' “Chicago.” Great song for the moment, and it just looked great, like you could feel the spell Veronica is under when she's around Logan. (And I say that as someone who doesn't especially care about them as a couple.)
* Leo heard that Veronica was in the FBI, a wink to the failed attempt to make a fourth season where Veronica was a rookie FBI agent. At PaleyFest, Thomas admitted it would have been highly unlikely that any of the other castmembers would have continued under that format, to which a dismayed Colantoni replied, “What about the regular Sunday night phone call with Keith?”
* Was anyone else surprised that all the references to the size of the memory stick Keith loaned Veronica didn't lead to anything? As Chekhov once wrote, when you introduce a powerful memory stick in the first act…
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org