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Originally published Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 3:05 PM

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‘Veronica Mars’: Good vibes, fan extras fill this reunion

A two-star movie review of “Veronica Mars,” which brings back the heroine (Kristen Bell) of the TV show to solve a mystery involving her former high-school flame (Jason Dohring), the prime suspect in a murder.




San Francisco Chronicle

Movie Review 2 stars

‘Veronica Mars,’ with Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Chris Lowell, Gaby Hoffmann. Directed by Rob Thomas, from a screenplay by Thomas and Diane Ruggiero. 107 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sexuality including references, drug content, violence and some strong language. Several theaters.

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The “Veronica Mars” movie was going to be a victory for fandom, even if the finished product was 107 minutes of Kristen Bell reading thank-you notes to supporters.

The television show by the same name was canceled in 2007 after three seasons on UPN and The CW networks, left with loose ends and a devoted fan base demanding a movie. When the studio waffled, lead actress Bell and creator Rob Thomas helped raise $5.7 million on crowdfunding site Kickstarter to get the Warner Bros. film made.

The movie is practically gift-wrapped for fans, many of whom will actually see themselves on screen. (Being an extra in the movie was one of the Kickstarter lures.) Newcomers will be less pleased, discovering a product that looks and feels like a scaled-up television show. The inside jokes and receiving line of nudge-wink cameos only adds to the small-screen feel.

“Veronica Mars” was a very good TV show, starting with a detective-procedural foundation and adding a self-referential wit. Bell was an outstanding heroine, and the writing was good enough to convince viewers that this gorgeous and extremely capable girl could be a high-school misfit. All of these qualities continue in the “Veronica Mars” movie.

Also returning: the contrived supporting characters, bad boy/good girl romantic tropes and a central mystery that appears to have been salvaged from the discard bin of a lesser “Law & Order” spinoff.

The film begins with Mars flying from New York to California to help former flame Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), who is the prime suspect in the murder of a generic pop star. Funny situations mix with “Scooby Doo” plot twists and a lot of awkward excuses to cram in glimpses of regulars on the TV show.

The protagonist’s detective skills are augmented by her willingness to cross moral and ethical lines a la Eddie Murphy’s Axel Foley, which probably played better when her character was 17 years old.

The age of the protagonists is a problem throughout the movie. Mars was appealing in part because she was a too-smart-for-the-cool-kids outcast. As a beautiful and intelligent 28-year-old who has seen the world, it seems incomprehensible that Mars would continue to act picked on and misunderstood.

The intangibles, however, are all in favor of “Veronica Mars.” The film has a reunion feel — including an actual high-school reunion — that fills the movie with good vibes. The actors, director and crew are clearly very grateful to be making this film.



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