D: Rob Thomas. W: Rob Thomas & Diane Ruggiero (based on Thomas’ 2004-2007 series for UPN). DP: Ben Kutchins. Starring: Kristen Bell/Jason Dohring/Enrico Colantoni/Chris Lowell/Percy Daggs III/Tina Majorino/Krysten Ritter/Martin Starr/Gaby Hoffman/Francis Capra/Ryan Hansen/Max Greenfield/Jerry O’Connell.
If the word kickstarter doesn’t ring a bell–now there’s an appropriate pun–then you have been building a home under a rock in far off place. Maybe in Neptune? Sorry I’ll stop. Over the weekend Veronica Mars broke records being the first fan funded project that not only resurrected a long cancelled series, but made over a million dollars at the box office alone. Along with cinemas, fans also downloaded the movie and some, as part of their thank you for donating to the project, were given an automatic at home downloadable version.
If you don’t know the UPN series of the same name you probably at least know the voice of its lead, Kristen Bell, from Disney’s recent hit Frozen and the illusive narrator of CW’s Gossip Girl. Fairing decently in the features world and in Showtime’s current series, House of Lies, Bell’s most memorable role still remains to be the quick witted and resourceful social outcast Veronica. Veronica is ‘Harriet the Spy’ all grown up. The series is set in posh town’s high school. Which begs the question…who would be friends with that girl? She snoops, she bugs, and generally gets to the bottom of the bottom. With a failed sheriff turned P.I. for a dad Rob Thomas’ creation was all cheek, smarts, and neo-noir, with a load of voice-over to boot.
The Veronica Mars film gracefully moves the story forward finding Bell’s Veronica attempting to evade a ten year high school reunion when she gets called up by ex-boyfriend/continued murder suspect Logan (Jason Dohring) who needs her help once again. A recent law graduate Bell protests, but ultimately gives in to the pull of home and her old flame. The rest is pure Thomas magic. Both directing and writing (not alone I might add), he is able to weave familiar faces into his new story without it feeling gimmicky. At times it may feel trite that certain people still live in the small ritzy place they grew up, but like the series the film highlights the fish bowl mentality of a small community. Bell’s Veronica still has her flare and quick comebacks that made her so likable. Much like Joss Whedon’s WB series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this female character makes her own choices and clearly drives the narrative and humor.
The supporting cast that shines are newcomer Gaby Hoffman as a crazed fan of Dohring’s music star girlfriend whose desperation coupled with clear obsession is incredibly fun to watch (for more fun Gaby watch 2013’s Crystal Fairy and the third season of HBO’s Girls). The usual gang is also back with Mac (Tina Majorino) and Wallace (Percy Daggs III) helping V and poor Piz (Chris Lowell) having to compete again for his gal’s attention. Enrico Colantoni as usual steals his scenes as Bell’s dad and Dick (Ryan Hansen) is as annoying as ever. The eventual who-dun-it of the film does pay off and provides a lot of building tension with darker more serious undertones than the series. But that is exactly where it should go, into new more complex territory.
Ultimately, Veronica Mars was funded by fans for the fans and that is where it succeeds. It satiates an audience’s need for more of what they love while also pacifying all the naysayers over at Warner Brothers TV who wouldn’t give the idea it’s financial backing (who will sadly make more money off this project than anyone would like to admit). I can ignore the film’s little glitches in detail or general long form television feel versus a cinematic one. Veronica Mars proves the little can do and will, setting a precedent moving forward. We will just have to see who picks up the ball next.