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Review: 'Veronica Mars' Is a Love Letter to the Fans Who Funded It

Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) and Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring)
Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) and Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) reunite in Veronica Mars. (From Warner Bros.)Veronica Mars is the ultimate in fan fulfillment. Made for, and funded by, the cult following that sprung up around the criminally ignored teen detective show that premiered in 2004, the movie is a love letter to the people who made it happen.

Creator/director Rob Thomas seems thrilled to embrace the very things fans love about his show. He packs quirks, in-jokes, and pop culture references into a brisk 107-minute movie that forces Veronica to retread the show's biggest hot-button issue (at least for the 'shippers) — her love triangle with the damaged badboy Logan, and her wide-eyed puppy dog boyfriend, Piz.

Yes, Piz (Chris Lowell) is back. And since everyone on the show has aged since it left, he has a haircut and works for Ira Glass, who by the way is in the movie. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Haven't seen the show? No problem. The movie opens with a "what-you've-missed" recap of three seasons of television. It's a jarring experience to encounter in a movie theater, but the many Mars fans watching at home (the movie hits on-demand services the same day as its theatrical release) might not even think about it.

The movie opens 10 years after Veronica (Kristen Bell) graduated from Neptune High. Once a gritty teen PI cracking murder investigations by circumventing the corrupt/inept local sheriff, she's now living a successful life in New York with Piz. Just out of law school, she's on the verge of going legit by convincing Jamie Lee Curtis to hand her a high-paying corporate lawyer gig. Her plans, however, are quickly hampered by a major news item. Her volatile ex-boyfriend Logan (Jason Dohring) is accused of killing his pop star girlfriend, and he's all over TMZ. Uh-oh. Time to head back to Neptune!

What follows is nearly indistinguishable from a Veronica Mars episode. The core plot concerns Veronica's efforts to prove Logan didn't kill someone, which was literally the B-storyline of the second season. It strikes a TV tone, but in the case of Veronica Mars, I suspect that's the intended effect.

Plots that might take a full season of television to resolve are condensed here into a faster pace at least. It's like it was made with science! Thomas delivers concentrated pieces of character development crafted especially for fans who've been waiting for it for eight years. He also purposely dates his soundtrack to the class of 2006 (that's when the show left the air). And the pop culture references (SharknadoBuffy the Vampire Slayer) are just the right kind of geeky. Even the cameos are part of the fan-appreciation party.

With this level of self-reference, newcomers will inevitably feel like they're being left out, and they are. All that winking and nodding is strictly for the fans, and while non-fans will easily follow along with the basic plot of the movie, they're bound to feel like the new kids in the lunch room. Seeing the gang thrown into a literal high school reunion is close to a crowning moment of awesome for fans. But anyone who missed the party in 2005 won't understand why it's so great to watch Veronica trade barbs with Madison Sinclair, or to see Piz pulled into a fist fight to defend Veronica's honor.

The best new addition to the movie comes in the form of Gaby Hoffman playing a sort of psycho former schoolmate whose obsession with Logan and his pop star dead girlfriend raises a few eyebrows. Nearly unrecognizable in a wig and drag-level makeup, she goes for broke when she gets a chance to sing at the show's old watering hole, The 09er (Oh-niner), which has been transformed into a velvet rope celeb hangout attended by TMZ photographers.

The story bobs and weaves like the best Mars episodes. Finding ways to tie up so many old loose ends while simultaneously piecing this mystery together is a screenwriting feat by itself, but watching Thomas put these characters through the wringer may be the best part. With high stakes and no future seasons to worry about, Thomas takes off the gloves. He might not be as brutal a God as Joss Whedon, but he's not one to take it easy on his creations.

The result is a giddy reunion for fans, who will definitely be feeling feelings when the credits roll. Maybe even enough to Kickstart a sequel.

View Rob Thomas Pictures »
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