SXSW Film: ‘Veronica Mars’

Last year during SXSW, “Veronica Mars” became one of the most quickly-funded Kickstarter projects in the website’s history. It is only fitting that it made its world premiere here in Austin during this year’s festival.

A decade ago, Kristen Bell played the titular character on television for three seasons before the show was canceled. It followed Veronica Mars, a high school outcast whose best friend was murdered, while she helps out her private investigator father Keith Mars with various cases.

The film picks up just before Veronica’s 10-year high school reunion at Neptune High, but as she returns to California, she discovers another old classmate has been murdered, and once again her ex-boyfriend is a prime suspect. Her blossoming career as a New York City lawyer is put in jeopardy once she gets herself involved with the case despite her father’s wishes.

Much to fans’ delight, many characters from the show make an appearance in the film, even if only for a few scenes. We check in on motorcycle gangbanger Weevil Navarro, Veronica’s cop ex-boyfriend Leo (known to many nowadays as Schmidt from “New Girl”) and of course a “Veronica Mars” movie would not be complete without an appearance from Vinnie Van Lowe.

While many of these cameos are only for one scene, it never really feels like simply fan service on writer/director Rob Thomas’s part. Everyone fits into the story organically, helping or hindering Veronica on her way to discovering who killed pop superstar Carrie Bishop.

Everyone in the film slid back into their roles with ease. With the chemistry so great between all the actors, it is hard to believe nearly a decade has gone by since they have played these characters. Even newcomers like Martin Starr and Jerry O’Connell fit naturally into this universe and bring a lot to the film.

But great acting cannot completely carry a film; the writing has to be strong too, and Thomas has not disappointed with this continuation of his cult favorite. The mystery at the center of the case is intriguing right from the start (despite the somewhat predictability of Logan being a suspect for yet another murder), with many possible killers popping up throughout the course of the film. The reveal of the killer is not a particularly shocking moment in movie history, but it is a satisfying and thrilling conclusion. The true joy of the film, though, is the fantastic dialogue, which Thomas was able to nail with perfection even after being away from this cast for so long. Veronica is still as intelligent and sassy as ever, while Dick will continue to go down as one of the most dim-witted pretty-boys ever written.

“Veronica Mars” serves as a great conclusion to the series, assuming a sequel is not produced. Fans of the original series will love its twists and turns as well as revisiting all of their favorite as well as least favorite characters (sorry guys, Piz is still around). Even if you have not seen even one episode of the show, the movie is not alienating to new viewers at all, so it is definitely worth a watch when it hits theaters.