These are the things I knew about Veronica Mars before watching the film:
1. It was an American TV show about a teenage detective.
2. It starred Kristen Bell.
3. Joss Whedon was a fan of the show and directed some episodes.
4. When the show’s creator went on Kickstarter to fund this movie version it became the fastest project on the website to reach $1 million, then the fastest to reach $2 million and ultimately the all time highest-funded project in the film category and third highest-funded project over all.
5. It evidently has a loyal fan base.
I’d vaguely planned to watch a few episodes at some stage so with the release of the film in cinemas and download I thought now was a good time to give it a go.
The first five minutes of the film is all exposition, first telling us newbies what happened on the show and then I presume bringing everyone up to speed with what has happened since. It is the clumsiest introduction imaginable but it does the job. To be honest it sets up the movie perfectly because the storytelling is equally laboured all the way through.
I don’t like to rain on the parade of the people who love this show but I’m actually a little surprised by how bad this film is. I am sure the Veronica Mars fans will enjoy seeing their old friends up on the silver screen but can that really be enough? The story is horribly underwritten and his filled with cliches and stereotypes. It is like watching Diagnosis Murder, Father Dowling Investigates or Murder She Wrote but with younger, prettier characters. Don’t get me wrong, I used to quite enjoy those shows but it was a different time back then and crime drama has moved on. The protagonist is even referred to as the town’s ‘own Angela Lansbury’ at one stage but postmodern self awareness does not excuse it. Frankly, this film makes Fast and Furious 6 look like LA Confidential.
There are some ridiculous plot points (involving inexplicably forgotten hidden microphones and spying on people through their tablet devices) and the action is constantly fuelled by contrivances and conveniences. Need someone who can explain the logistics of computer programming? Hey, your best friend who seems to serve little other function in the story has just announced that she works for a large IT company and can tell you what you need to know. Need a USB stick with extensive memory? Your Dad has one in his pocket! Oh, and there is a voice over that would sound cheesy even if Carrie Bradshaw were reading it out and isn’t as funny as it thinks it is.
At least I think it is trying to be funny, the gags fall so flat (if they are gags) that I’m not sure. There is a painfully extended scene with James Franco sending himself up again but after he did that so definitively hosting the Oscars it really isn’t amusing anymore. It certainly didn’t merit being revisited in a mid credit sequence.
Clearly there are in jokes that have gone right over my head but isn’t there some commercial responsibility to appeal to a new audience too? At one stage Veronica says she is a marshmallow which no doubt will have those who understand the reference cheering in their seats but to me it made no sense whatsoever. You put this film in cinemas, you invited me to the party, please don’t make me feel left out.
By the same rationale don’t expect me to care when a major character’s life is suddenly in danger or others are shot. I’m sure the faithful will be devastated but I only met these guys an hour ago and they haven’t earned my love yet.
This is unfamiliar territory for me having previously been familiar with everything from Ducktales to Doctor Who before I saw their big screen adventures. I guess I’m just not used to being an outsider and it’s making me a little petulant.
Mind you, there was an obscure reference to comedy Nazis looking at the skulls on their hats and realising they are the bad guys which I did get. That’s from a Mitchell and Webb sketch.
The thing is, that pre-knowledge or no pre-knowledge, a film of a TV show needs to have something big happen in it, like the first X-Files movie. It can’t just be another episode, like the second X-Files movie. Sex and the City had the wedding and Star Trek: The Next Generation crashed The Enterprise. Even Steve Irwin had a top secret satellite falling to Earth and getting eaten by a Crocodile. There is nothing anywhere near as epic going on here.
Basically, if it is a successful cinematic continuation of a TV show you want, one that rewards both existing fans and new viewers with sophisticated plotting, suspense and rounded characters, then watch Serenity instead.
This is strictly one for the fans then which is kind of okay as they pretty much paid for it. No doubt they will love it but I found it at best vaguely distracting and totally forgettable.
The ISWYS Test:
1. Is there a female lead?
2. If that character was your sister would you respect her?
3. If your sister did those things would you proudly tell all your friends about it?
3 out of 3 for Veronica Mars so it has that going for it.
Is this one for the kids?
I don’t know how this compares to the TV show but the film is a 12A. I’m going to guess it has been toned down a little. There are some bland scenes of violence and sex and a little bit of swearing to show that the main character has attitude.