A teenage detective? That's soooo last decade.
Veronica Mars may have solved a case or two in her day, but she's put all that behind her now. The savviest sleuth in Neptune, Calif., has moved on—to New York City, specifically, where she's preparing for the state's bar exam and interviewing with some of the most prestigious firms in the country. And if any potential employers ask her about her earlier investigative days, Veronica assures them that it was just a silly teenage phase.
"I haven't worked a case since I transferred [to Stanford University]," she says.
But just as Veronica's on the verge of creating a new life for herself, Neptune's gravitational pull yanks Mars out of her new orbit and back home.
Seems old classmate Carrie Bishop—who later became the vampish superstar singer Bonnie DeVille—is dead, electrocuted in her bath. And Veronica's old flame Logan Echolls is the prime suspect. He asks Mars to fly out and help him weed through the lawyers eager to take his case (and to parlay his notoriety into fame of their own). Veronica is happy to oblige—as long as she can get back to New York by Monday to accept a new job and spend time with her longtime beau Piz.
Old habits do die hard though. And Veronica's itching to find out who cruelly offed DeVille. So before you can say marshmallow, Veronica's shuffling through her old sleuthing gear, polishing her telephoto lens and searching for the killer.
A teenage detective? Puhlease! Veronica Mars is well past … being a teenager. She's in her 20s now—old enough to drink legally and everything. But she's just as capable of bringing a baddie to justice as she ever was.
The wisecracking Veronica is smart, resourceful and doggedly determined to ferret out the truth, no matter what sort of danger lurks in Neptune's dingy atmosphere. Unlike the town's corrupt police officers, neither she nor her father (proprietor of the Mars Detective Agency) feel beholden to cover up for the well-heeled '09ers (as residents of the town's ritzy 90909 ZIP Code are known).
Daughter and Dad (Keith), care for each other deeply. And they've been through a lot together. While Keith would love to see Veronica move into a safer, more secure line of work, he must also feel a little pride to see that Veronica maintains the same ethical code that he does: to search for the truth, no matter where it might lead, and protect those who need it the most.
Logan's relationship with not-quite better half Bonnie had long been on the rocks. But lately he'd been trying to help her get clean and sober, referring to himself as more of a "sponsor" than a boyfriend. He's a different guy compared to the one Veronica knew all those years ago; joining the Navy has led to some much-needed stability.
One of Logan's prospective lawyers goes by the initials J.C., which, according to his roommate, Dick, must stand for "Jesu Christo get a load of my Rolex." The lawyer says he sees Logan's case as a virtuous one: "I see Jesus turning money lenders out of the temple," he declares. Someone spreads a rumor that Bonnie was killed by the Catholic Church for sleeping with a priest.
Veronica's sex tape (a recurring plot point in the third and final season of the Veronica Mars television show) resurfaces here, first as a job interview question ("I hope we talk STDs" in the next interview, Veronica quips), and then when footage of the tape is shown at Veronica's 10-year high school reunion. The grainy green footage shows her with Piz: Nothing critical is visible, but we see skin and movement. Logan and Bonnie were also the subject of a sex tape surreptitiously filmed and posted online. (Their legs are shown.)
Veronica and Piz are still engaged in a sexual relationship. We see his bare back in bed while Veronica looks at a computer. And when Piz flies out to Neptune to talk with Veronica, they apparently sleep together in her room. (Veronica's exasperated father wonders why he didn't crash on one of the house's perfectly good couches.) When the two break up, Veronica sails swiftly into Logan's embrace: After Logan carries a sleeping Veronica into her house and is about to leave, she wakes up and asks him to stay. They kiss passionately, and she rips open his shirt before the camera at least leaves.
Gia is engaged to Luke Haldeman, but Veronica learns the relationship is a sham when Logan follows Luke to a Hollywood (male) bath house. Gia is in fact sleeping with a man named Cobb; Veronica spies Cobb giving her a kiss on the neck, after which they head for Gia's bedroom. The bug Veronica planted in Gia's apartment records their noisy encounter … which is accidentally broadcast on an FM radio station.
Logan "dates" a Bonnie lookalike: She kisses Logan passionately, and Logan confesses to Veronica that she drew hearts on his thigh with her fingernails. Unremitting sexual banter is woven through the script, too, with people discussing breast sizes, making allusions to pedophilia, prostitution, "whores," critical anatomical parts, illicit encounters and exposing oneself while getting out of a car. Several alcoholic drinks have sexually provocative names. A dancer makes crass and suggestive moves.
A woman gets shot in the stomach. She dies, bleeding, on an apartment floor. A truck smashes into a car (twice) with two men inside, and the driver clearly intended to kill both passengers. One does die, while the other is taken to the hospital with serious injuries. We see them covered in blood.
Veronica is stalked by a gun-wielding suspect who shoots at her several times. Someone is Tasered and maced. An ex-biker is shot in the gut by a frightened woman who's being harassed by his old gang. Several guys get into a fight during the class reunion. Many punches are thrown, leaving some participants with cuts, black eyes, etc. Veronica punches an old classmate in the face. She tells someone making a pass at her that her boyfriend is a hit man. Piz recalls a fight with Logan, mentioning how bone chips still float in his orbital socket.
Bonnie is shown dead in a bathtub; we see part of her head and arm. There's much discussion about the mysterious death of a friend of Bonnie's nine years prior; it's generally believed she slipped off a boat during an all-night party, but Veronica suspects she was killed and perhaps tied to an anchor so her body would never be recovered.
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word and a handful of substitutions ("frack," "freaking," etc.). Ten s-words. Other profanities include "a‑‑," "b‑‑ch," "b‑‑tard," "d‑‑n," "h‑‑‑," "p‑‑‑ed," "pr‑‑k" and "bloody." God's name is misused a dozen times, twice with "d‑‑n."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Much of the action in Veronica Mars takes place in bars. During her class reunion, Veronica desperately searches for alcohol. We often hear about how Veronica's old classmates got drunk or wasted, and we see people consume wine, beer and mixed drinks. Logan was trying to keep Bonnie sober before she died. Veronica's mother was an alcoholic, and it's suggested that Veronica has her own addictive compulsions too (that I'll get into in the Conclusion).
There's talk of someone passing out and then dying after taking too many drugs, and of a whole party of people partaking. Someone spots some marijuana in Dick's house. (He claims to have a medicinal license to use it due to his "chronic depression.")
Other Negative Elements
Veronica breaks several laws during her investigation, nearly getting locked up on a felony trespassing charge. Police plant evidence and harass suspects.
Despite the old adage, Veronica Mars proves that you can go home again. The question is, should you?
The movie, of course, is based on the cult television show (also named Veronica Mars) that aired on UPN and the CW between 2004 and 2007. Though it never was truly a hit as far as ratings were concerned, its rabid fan base (members of which are called "marshmallows") never lost the love. So when director Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell launched a fundraising campaign to resume Veronica's story on the big screen, fans ponied up $2 million in 10 hours—enough to greenlight the project.
For longtime viewers, the Mars movie is surely cinematic ambrosia. Almost everyone who was anyone in the series returns here, slipping snugly into their old characters like a well-worn leather jacket. The script is rife with inside jokes for fans in the know.
That, of course, will make outsiders feel like, well, outsiders—much like Veronica herself felt in the show's first season. And for those looking for clues to clean entertainment, let's just say Neptune's still as dirty as it ever was … perhaps even more so.
In 2005, Plugged In said of the TV show, "Though this heroine enjoys predictable success in her quest to clean up the town, families would be better served if writers would clean up the show—case closed." Some things don't change. Characters in the movie have sex occasionally and talk about it frequently. And they're rarely without a drink in their hands, despite the fact that alcohol abuse has obviously taken its toll on many of them.
Which brings us to one of the more unsettling aspects of Veronica Mars.
Throughout the movie, Veronica is asked why she'd even consider giving up her chance to become a big shot lawyer and a comfortable life with Piz. Why would she turn her back on New York for the sleazy, slimy confines of Neptune? Addiction, Veronica tells us again and again. She's an adrenaline junkie. Just as her mother succumbed to alcoholism, so Veronica needs her own sort of fix: the crime-fighting sort.
As a storytelling device, that's all well and good, I suppose. Script- and songwriters often compare what they love to a "drug." And there are certainly worse addictions than cleaning up a corrupt town.
That said, addicts still hurt the people they love through their compulsion—as Veronica hurts her father with her decision to forsake her degree. Addictions impair judgment—perhaps something like how Veronica falls into Logan's bed mere hours after her long-term beau Piz declares their relationship kaput. Addictions are inherently unhealthy, something Veronica knows as well as anyone. And yet the film suggests that Veronica is an addict, drawn back to Neptune like a moth to a flame.
We know how things generally go for the moth.
So Veronica Mars, as satisfying as it might be for fans, feels more like a tragedy to me. The entire town is awash in drink, drugs and bad behavior. Meanwhile, Veronica is happily—addictively—at the center of it all once again.
For Veronica Mars, home is where the fix is.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Drama, Comedy, Action/Adventure
Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars; Jason Dohring as Logan Echolls; Krysten Ritter as Gia Goodman; Ryan Hansen as Dick Casablancas; Francis Capra as Eli 'Weevil' Navarro; Percy Daggs III as Wallace Fennel; Chris Lowell as Stosh 'Piz' Piznarski; Tina Majorino as Cindy 'Mac' Mackenzie; Enrico Colantoni as Keith Mars; Ken Marino as Vinnie Van Lowe; Andrea Estella as Bonnie DeVille/Carrie Bishop; Martin Starr as Lou 'Cobb' Cobbler; Gaby Hoffman as Ruby Jetson; Brandon Hillock as Deputy Sacks; Jerry O'Connell as Sheriff Dan Lamb
March 14, 2014
Paul Asay Paul Asay