Category Archives: Veronica Mars

We’re still friends, ‘Veronica Mars’

Veronica_Mars camera

As sure as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was a drama about high school filtered through horror movie trappings like vampires and demons, “Veronica Mars” was a drama about real-life horror show elements – murder, rape, STDs and, most of all, betrayal – filtered through the high-school experience.

“Buffy” and “Veronica Mars” were sisters of the same mother – as a throw-away line in the “Veronica Mars” movie that debuted just this weekend testifies – and are, ultimately, stories about surviving not just people with murderous intentions but the people who love you and the people you love. Betrayal hurts a hell of a lot worse than a stake to the heart or the zap of a Taser.

veronica mars cast

As TV shows, “Buffy” and “Veronica Mars” ended before their time. Sure, it can be argued that “Buffy” had more weak moments than strong ones in its last couple of seasons, but the most bitter pill for fans is that the show ended before pop culture’s full-on fixation with vampire stories began, with far lesser tales like “Twilight” hogging the spotlight that should have gone to the show that started it all.

And while “Veronica Mars” had the benefit of an online Kickstarter campaign that brought it back as the big-screen incarnation that debuted this weekend, its three seasons – again, admittedly, with some uneven stories late in its run – just missed out on the shared online community of Facebook, Twitter and name-your-social-media that generates – or at least proves to the world – the dedication of fans.

So we come to the new “Veronica Mars,” a big-screen movie that follows up, seven years later, on the heroine who gave the series and movie their names.

Director Rob Thomas, creator of the series, duplicates the success of the series in creating an unlikely protagonist in Veronica: A female protagonist who acts and talks like the tough-guy hero of a hard-boiled detective story but is still, realistically, a young woman trying to navigate the caste system of a small California town.

Neptune – “It really was built on a Hellmouth,” as one character says in the movie, in a nod to “Buffy” – is still a town full of haves and have nots. Thanks to the corruption that rules the town, the haves – politicians and software makers and movie actors and the police who do their bidding – push the have-nots down and keep them down.

Veronica – the former high-school outcast-turned private investigator, still played with toughness and vulnerability by Kristen Bell – returns to Neptune when former antagonist, former boyfriend Logan (charming, as always, Jason Dohring) is accused of killing his girlfriend, a former classmate who’s become a pop celebrity.

the guys fight veronica mars

The trip means leaving boyfriend Piz (Chris Lowell) and a promising job at a law firm behind in New York. And it means a reunion with friends like Wallace (Percy Daggs III), Mac (Tina Majorino) and Weevil (Francis Capra). There’s also that most dreaded function of “all these years later” plots – an actual high school reunion.

veronica and keith mars

Much more welcome is the reunion between Veronica and her dad, private investigator Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni). It’s the relationship between Veronica and Keith – heartfelt and quippy, with the warmest and sometimes thorniest parent-child dynamic on TV – that made the show more than a rehash of Nancy and Carson Drew.

Well, that and the more-than-a-little caustic look at a town that seems more relevant today, frankly, than it did in the comparative boom days of the early 2000s. Neptune feels like a jaundiced and corrupt town from the best noir, full of biker gangs, seedy motels and people with either too much to lose or nothing at all.

The heart of the movie is Logan’s dilemma and Veronica’s puzzling out a solution, but there are a lot of nice moments with most of the cast. And there are some nice surprise appearances for fans of the show – mostly along the lines of glimpses of favorite supporting characters, with the notable exception of one who was written out of the story when it was on TV – and a fun and unexpected cameo or two.

The surprises emphasize, in a way, just how focused the movie is on fans – including those tens of thousands who helped fund it through KickstarterĀ  but also those who fondly remembered the series, its plucky and wry heroine and its jaded look at relationships and a town’s caste system.

The movie’s clubby anti-club slant probably limits its appeal to people who never watched the series. The point of rebooting an old TV show or movie is to bring in new fans, but like the “Serenity” follow-up to Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” series, “Veronica Mars” isn’t likely to engage new followers.

But for the faithful, the fans of the young sleuth and her world, “Veronica Mars” is a welcome reunion.

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Mission ‘Veronica Mars’

veronica_mars third season cast

As much as I enjoyed “Serenity,” the big-screen follow-up to Joss Whedon’s cult classic TV series “Firefly,” it didn’t set the world on fire at the movie box office. So it’ll be interesting to see how “Veronica Mars” does when the former UPN and CW show comes to the big-screen on March 14 courtesy of a Kickstarter campaign.

I’ll be there, no doubt, and I know a few other fans of the series – which aired for three years ending in 2007 – but was a decade ahead of its time – will be, too.

But it’s hard to imagine the movie will be a box-office success. And you know what? That’s okay.

“Veronica Mars” was nothing more than a cult series during its three seasons on TV. And while I wish it had been a hit and was still on the air, those of us who watched it then loved it.

Like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and a few other cult classics, “Veronica Mars” probably suffered from airing just a little before the prevalence of social media, especially when paired with TV watching. It’s pretty common now to see people live-tweeting “The Walking Dead” or “Game of Thrones” or, before its finale, “Breaking Bad.” “Veronica Mars” would have greatly benefited from that kind of love, which can turn a small cult show into a big cult show.

If you haven’t watched it, I urge you to seek it out, online or streaming or on demand or on disc. Because “Veronica Mars” was almost certainly the smartest, darkest, hippest, snarkiest and most downright appealing show to mix noir crime drama with a coming-of-age story.

In the Rob Thomas-created series, Veronica (played by Kristen Bell) and her father, County Sheriff Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni) live in Neptune, California. Veronica is part of the high school in crowd when her world is torn apart: Her best friend Lily Kane (Amanda Seyfried) is murdered. After Keith pursues Lily’s father, a software millionaire, for the killing and the case falls through – a more “perfect” suspect is arrested and confesses to the crime – Keith is thrown out of office by Neptune’s vengeful upperclass. Veronica is exiled by her crowd and, on a fateful night, is given a date-rape drug and assaulted.

If “Veronica Mars” sounds dark, it is. But it’s lightened not only by the way Keith and Veronica deal with their outlier status – Keith opens a detective agency, Mars Investigations, and Veronica helps out in the office but takes on her own cases at school – but the tone of the series is slyly, ironically funny.

Not that the series could help but be darkly funny with a cast that included not only Bell and Colantoni but Jason Dohring as Bell’s sometimes antagonist/often boyfriend Logan. Logan was the “bad boy” that so many fans loved to see Veronica with.

The series walked a delicate balance between high school and college heartbreak – Veronica found out what it was like to be an exile in teen society – with real noir crime stories about missing persons, assault and murder.

Bell was always believable as the resourceful young woman who often put herself in danger but never came across as a superhero. In fact, it was her vulnerability – and her realistic and loving relationship with her father – that gave the heroine, who could be hard-edged, a lot of heart.

“Veronica Mars” had its finger on the pop culture pulse, including when Veronica adopts the expletive “frak” from the contemporary “Battlestar Galactica” series and when “Buffy” creator Joss Whedon, a big fan of the series, stopped by for a cameo.

Thomas’ eye for casting the series’ many supporting and recurring roles was second to none. Besides Seyfried, who went on to a movie career, small roles were played by cult-y actors from Ken Marino as Keith’s rival PI Vinnie Van Lowe to Krysten Ritter as Gia.

If the “Veronica Mars” movie isn’t a huge hit – or even, hard to imagine, isn’t very good – that’s too bad. But the series will always be the series and it will always be good.

New: ‘Veronica Mars’ movie poster

veronica-mars-movie-poster

So this is cool.

Here’s the poster for the “Veronica Mars” movie, due out March 14.

Funded by a very successful Kickstarter campaign, the Rob Thomas movie, featuring Kristen Bell in the now-grown-up role of the cult favorite high-school-and-college-sleuth, should be a treat for fans of the short-lived series.