When The CW canceled beloved TV show Veronica Mars in 2007, I was in my last year of college, huddled around the TV with friends. We all berated The CW for canceling our favorite show about a teenage private eye only to replace it with a reality show about The Pussycat Dolls.
Veronica Mars stood out in the teen television wasteland. No matter how much I enjoy campy TV, the female leads of teen-focused shows are often underdeveloped caricatures or are merely foils for the leading bro. Veronica was rare in that she always felt like an actual woman. Kristen Bell played the smart small-town high-schooler who moonlights as a crime-solving investigator with impeccable humor. But the character wasn’t a two-dimensional “strong female character”—Veronica was a unique character who was unapologetically herself. The show made a point of dealing with her inability to fully open up and her simmering anger problems.
Last March during my hung-over, sleep-deprived, Monster-guzzling week at SXSW, Kristen Bell and screenwriter Rob Thomas launched their Kickstarter campaign to make a Veronica Mars movie. The campaign met its goal in less than a day, then went on to make over $5.7 million. The excitement was palpable.
Exactly a year later, the Kickstarter-funded Veronica Mars film made its world premiere at SXSW. And I’m happy to report that, luckily, Veronica is still herself.
The film picks up about 10 years later—Veronica (still played by Kristen Bell) is living in NYC with her boyfriend Piz (Chris Lowell) and finishing up law school. Our beloved heroine’s narrative informs us that she’s been on the straight and narrow and hasn’t worked a case since she left her hometown of Neptune. She realized what kind of cost her cases had on her family and friends and she was finally willing to give up solving dangerous crimes.
But, of course, when a case involving perpetually-in-trouble ex-boyfriend Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) comes up, Veronica goes back home to help him and yet again enmeshes herself into the seedy underbelly of Neptune—a town whose severely skewed class issues feel more relevant than ever.
Early hype of the film played up a Veronica/Piz/Logan triangle, with even the film’s stars donning “Team Logan” and “Team Piz” t-shirts. But though it does have a couple Logan arm muscle shots and adorably awkward Piz quips, the film is squarely focused on Veronica’s journey. Instead of getting bogged down in a predictable romantic tale, Veronica Mars deals with the tough questions of growing up. Deep down, Veronica knows what makes her tick and she learns that she doesn’t have to give up her remnants of Neptune to be the person she needs to become.
Don’t worry, this premise isn’t merely a rehash of the show we all loved. Instead, it feels like the show has grown into an even better story. The characters have evolved in interesting ways—Logan isn’t the same puka-shelled, XTerra-driving asshole he once was, Weevil (Francis Capra) truly has it all together, Mac (Tina Majorino) & Piz have both found their own forms of confidence and Dick (Ryan Hansen)… well, Dick is still a dick.
One thing that made the show great was the relationships between these characters—when Veronica, Mac, and Wallace (Percy Daggs III) reunite over beers and Wallace immediately calls Veronica out on her shit, it feels like no time has passed. The most central relationship of the show is between Veronica and her dad, Keith (Enrico Colantoni), one of the best TV dads ever. As Colantoni described on the red carpet: “The good thing about the relationship between Veronica and Keith is that he really empowered her when she was crawling around.” In the film, their relationship remains steadfast.
While the film is accessible to people who never were Veronica Mars fans, jokes, references, and characters pop up that will delight super fans. Despite its noir-tinged moodiness, high school reunion madness, and occasional snark, at its core is a fluffy marshmallow—one that we should savor because we almost didn’t get the chance.
Watch the Veronica Mars trailer below: