Seven years ago, Veronica Mars ended with a perfectly-pitched whimper. It wasn’t planned as the end. But in life, unlike cable TV, endings are never planned, and that didn’t make the fact of our heroine disappearing to “It Never Rains in Southern California” (some battles won, most lost or given up) any less final. The film opens with the same shot, in an overlong and under-informative catch-me-up not much better than In Last Week’s Episode… and it’s clear that it is too little too late.
Careers didn’t suffer in the show’s wake, but the cast (and creator Rob Thomas) seemed eager to dive right back in to it, even though on-screen they look slightly melancholy. The fans’ feelings are much less mixed—they shelled out nearly all of the film’s six-million-dollar production budget (in a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign), saving Warner Bros. the hassle of spending a single red cent.
A lot has changed over these last seven years. You can now pay for a movie using just the Internet (referenced in an opening scene), stop-and-frisk has entered the popular lexicon (in another early scene), and caller-IDs pop up on-screen like in a low-budget House of Cards (this time featuring redundant information!). Kristen Bell is now married, and her husband Dax Shepard shows up briefly as a sleazy club-goer. Hell, even James Franco is in this thing, doing a less-funny, more-PG-13 flip on the homoerotic-self-seriousness he brought to This Is The End.
But please don’t ask me why, because I don’t know. The show ended with a lot of unanswered questions, and the movie makes no attempt to pick up on those threads—who would remember, anyway—instead opting to give “bad-boy” Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) another murdered girlfriend to test Veronica’s investigative prowess. That plot wraps up quite neatly, like one of Ronnie’s old cases-of-the-week, now bloated with pseudo-emotional reminiscing. What has happened to our whip-smart, precocious heroine? Really, not a thing, and that’s what’s sad about it; it’s hard to be precocious when you’re 33, just like it’s hard for a movie to feel fresh when it’s a retread of a ten-year-old show. That’s the case no matter how plucky the actress or how great that show might have been.
Today the unanswered questions are about artistic choices, not cliffhangers. For example: since Thomas clearly needed to bring back Mars for a final hurrah, why not take the character somewhere we hadn’t seen her before (this could be a question of emotion or location, though hopefully both)? And one more: if we already paid the production budget, then who made the money from the Budweiser product placement?
At least we have Garden State 2 to look forward to. Here’s to the power of consumer choice.