Film review: ‘Veronica Mars’ fans, rejoice! Everyone else …

If just looking at this photo gives you goose bumps, head to your local multiplex.

Three stars

Veronica Mars Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni. Directed by Rob Thomas. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday; also available on VOD.

First things first: Is there any point to seeing Veronica Mars if you weren’t a devoted fan of the TV show? In a word, no. Series creator Rob Thomas, who co-wrote the movie with Diane Ruggiero and directed it himself, appealed directly to the converted to get it financed, engineering the first truly high-profile Kickstarter campaign; more than $5 million poured in, and Thomas understandably opted to please those folks first and foremost. Apart from a quick prologue that functions like a TV episode’s “Previously On” segment, Veronica Mars doesn’t bother trying to bring newcomers up to speed, assuming not just passing familiarity with the characters and their relationships but also a devotion encompassing multiple viewings of multiple seasons. Everyone else will be vaguely aware that lots of references are sailing over their heads.

That said—and speaking from the perspective of someone who gave up on the show after its first eight episodes, mostly because I’m allergic to its case-of-the-week structure—the movie version does look like it’s more or less exactly what the faithful wished for when they pulled out their debit cards (which, of course, they’ll have to pull out again). Now a law-school graduate seeking employment in New York City, former teen gumshoe Veronica (Kristen Bell) reluctantly returns to her hometown of Neptune, California, when she learns that a former classmate who’d become a rock star was murdered, and that her ex-boyfriend Logan (Jason Dohring) is the prime suspect. Her usual voiceover-inflected investigation sees her check in with all of the series regulars, especially her private-eye father, Keith (Enrico Colantoni), who’s dismayed to see Veronica risking her big-time dreams by getting sucked back into Neptune’s corruption.

This particular mystery isn’t terribly compelling, which is what prevents Veronica Mars from functioning as an effective stand-alone movie for neophytes (though it’s a damn sight more accessible than the first X-Files movie was). Fans will get what they desire, though—a reunion with Veronica, Keith, Logan, Wallace (Percy Daggs III), Weevil (Francis Capra), etc.—and the film replicates the show’s distinctive flavor so well that it’s likely to eventually send some casual home viewers scurrying to find the series box sets. In short, you already know whether or not you want to see it. Act accordingly.

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