14 March 2014

Veronica Mars Review: It's Better And Ballsier Than Ever (As Is Kristen Bell)

TEN years ago, television’s teen detective Veronica Mars became something of a feminist icon. Sassy, snarky, unflustered by the queen bees, and unafraid to be the smartest girl in the room by far, Veronica was Nancy Drew as reimagined by Raymond Chandler and transposed to the small screen. After three cult seasons however, the show was cancelled, much to the chagrin of its ardent fans.

But now, thanks to the devotion of those very fans, Veronica is back, once again played by Kristen Bell, but this time on the big screen. Over 90,000 people gave money to the Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign – the most successful yet - that financed the film, raising $5.7 million in total, $2 million of which was donated in the first 10 hours alone.

The film premiered – to the rapturous response of fans - at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas last weekend, and is on limited release in the UK from today. So, will the tens of thousands of kickstarter contributors be satisfied with their investment?

1. Veronica is better and ballsier than ever (as is Kristen Bell)

Off-screen, Bell has been busy in the seven years since Veronica hung up her binoculars. She’s riding high on the recent success of Frozen and House of Lies, has married her long-time partner, the comedian Dax Shepherd (in a black APC jumpsuit) and is now mother to their one year-old daughter, Lincoln.

 Her alter ego, Veronica, has been no less industrious, studying for a BA in psychology from Stanford, and has recently qualified from the prestigious Columbia Law School. In a happy, steady, relationship with Piz (Chris Lowell), she’s about to embark on a lucrative career as a corporate lawyer in New York City when her ex-boyfriend and her old life in Neptune, California, pulls her back in.

She’s as whip-smart and sharp-tongued as ever, with an enviable line in put-downs, but updated with relevant cultural references, such as a saucy sex-tape lurking in her past.

2. The big reunion is a blast

The original series was a breeding ground for young talent, and a huge proportion of the original cast have made it back for the big-screen get-together, including Ryan Hansen, more hilarious than ever as the bitchy, barbed, scene-stealing surf-jerk Dick Casablancas, Jason Dohring as Logan Echolls, Veronica’s old flame (witness him in his white naval suit and swoon) and Krysten Ritter as the highly therapised former mean girl, Gia Goodman.

At the fan-packed premiere at SXSW, there were whoops of delight when Max Greenfield, now starring in Channel 4’s New Girl, appeared to reprise his role as pizza-loving police officer Leo D’Amato.

The fictional, crime-riddled Neptune, however, is clearly a world without Facebook (or even Friends Reunited). At the handily timed 10-year high school reunion, no one appeared to have spoken since graduation day, nor had any idea what their oldest friends and former loves had been up to in the last decade.

3. The new additions are hot property – and can dance

So, there’s no Leighton Meester or Amanda Siegfried, but our favourite breakout star of this season’s Girls, Gaby Hoffman, more than makes up for it. As Ruby Jetson, a former classmate of Veronica’s, now eerily obsessed with a recently dead singer, the fabulous Hoffman sports a Cleopatra wig and treats us to more of her freeform dancing, as seen on Girls and in Crystal Fairy and the Magic Cactus, and apparently inspired by her friend Claire Danes.

4. James Franco gets in on the act (of course)

Actor, author, academic, and self-styled Renaissance man Franco seemingly cannot let an opportunity pass to play himself in a variety of media. Mercifully, his witty, self-deprecating cameo in Veronica Mars is far more entertaining and credible than that eye-wateringly embarrassing Samsung Galaxy commercial.

5. It doesn’t matter if you never watched the television show

Yes, there are some fond references to storylines and themes from the television show, but newcomers to Neptune and its inhabitants are equally welcome as old friends and die-hard fans. There’s a helpful recap at the beginning for any Veronica virgins, and the film succeeds in standing alone as a clever comedy-noir with far more to say than larger, more mainstream fare, plus plenty of smart gags about social media, marijuana legalization and hipster facial hair. 

The question is, how soon will the whip-round start for a sequel?

Veronica Mars is released today

By Jane Mulkerrins

 

 


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