Veronica Mars is geek-ocracy in action, financed by fans through Kickstarter because they just couldn't let it go.
Nobody with financial acumen would dare to make a movie about a decade-departed TV series that barely blipped in the ratings. So, nearly 92,000 "Marshmallows" — what diehard fans call themselves — ponied up $5.7 million for creator Rob Thomas to make it. Judging by his filmography, Thomas had nothing else pressing to do.
Still, that's a lot of money that could've been better used paying off liberal arts college loans. Or tailoring a new cosplay wardrobe.
Veronica Mars, the TV show, chronicled the exploits of a 21st century Nancy Drew, a scholastic sleuth played by then-ingenue Kristen Bell (the voice of Frozen's princess Anna). It's easy to see the show's appeal, the snarky empowerment Veronica represented for teenagers bristling against grownup authority and snooty peer pressures. Years later, those issues shouldn't matter anymore but for this nostalgia's sake they must.
Veronica Mars, the movie, plays like a two-parter without commercials. Its uninspired framing and static action suits a TV screen better than a multiplex's. (The movie is also available through video-on-demand.) Many of the original cast members return, mostly proving why they still aren't household names.
These days, Veronica is living in New York prepping for her Bar exam when she learns a former classmate and current pop music star has been murdered. The prime suspect is the victim's boyfriend Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), who used to date Veronica. He's innocent, of course. Obvious suspects like Logan and Gia Goodman (Krysten Ritter) — who creepily stalked and mimics the dead star — are never guilty.
Veronica returns to hometown Neptune, Calif., to solve the case, pleasing her private eye father (Enrico Colantoni) and irking the sheriff (Jerry O'Connell), who's turning the place into a police state. Meanwhile, a 10-year class reunion dredges up old friendships and rivalries.
Veronica's deduction skills are mostly limited to glancing at photographs and spotting details nobody else saw, then explaining them to marveling listeners. Or else Veronica spells out exactly what just happened in voiceovers sounding crutchier than usual. More fun is spotting the bizarre cameos Thomas arranged, including TMZ gossip king Harvey Levin, National Public Radio's Ira Glass and, in a testament to shark jumping, James Franco as himself.
Thomas doesn't miss any chances to wink at the franchise's return, with an opening montage practically screaming "previously on Veronica Mars," and references to previous cases like a dognapping ring, or a "moribund career" resurrected through Kickstarter. Marshmallows will be stoked. The rest of us will pine for a wake-up jolt from Veronica's retro-bulky stun gun.
Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.