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This image released by Warner Bros Pictures shows Ryan Hansen (left), and Kristen Bell in a scene from ‘Veronica Mars.’ (AP)
Suspense, action tense in ‘Mars’ Bell flat-out terrific

 TheWrap offers two takes on “Veronica Mars,” the movie: one from its Lead Movie Critic Alonso Duralde, who has never watched the TV show, and another from its Senior TV Writer Jethro Nededog, a longtime fan. 

— Editor
 
By Alonso Duralde & Jethro Nededog
 
Amy Poehler once joked that her favorite show on TV is “Previously on ‘Homeland” and those of us who watch television the old-fashioned way (one episode a week instead of bingeing through a whole season) appreciate those little reminders of what’s already happened (and what’s going to get a call-back on this next episode) In bringing his cult series “Veronica Mars” to the big screen, director Rob Thomas (who co-wrote with Diane Ruggiero) has very cannily made this material approachable for people who never watched the show — like me — by kicking things off with the mother of all “Previously ons,” walking us through the life and loves of teen detective Veronica (Kristen Bell), and how she and her father Keith (Enrico Colantoni) made enemies by poking through the sleazy underbelly of the seemingly idyllic seaside resort town of Neptune, Calif.
 
But don’t worry, “Veronica” vets, there’s plenty for you, too: there are references to “marshmallows” and Kickstarter (the crowd-sourcing site by which super-fans helped this movie get made) in the first ten minutes. As the film gets underway, Veronica is living in New York as a recent law school graduate, interviewing for a job with a tony, high-powered firm. She tells us in the narration that snooping and stalking is something in her past, and she wants to leave her old gumshoe-ing behind for a life as an attorney with her fiancé Piz (Chris Lowell), whose gig at NPR enables the first of several amusing celebrity cameos.
 
Thomas and Ruggiero’s script treat Veronica’s sleuthing as an addiction, and the first taste of the forbidden stuff comes when she goes back to Neptune to help out her ex-boyfriend Logan (Jason Dohring), who’s been accused of murdering their high school classmate Carrie (Andrea Estella), a famous pop star. Even though it means being in town for Veronica’s tenth high-school reunion - which brings her back together with pals Mac (Tina Majorino) and Wallace (Percy Daggs III) - Veronica keeps postponing her return to Manhattan as she gets more deeply engrossed with who really killed Carrie, especially when it appears to have something to do with an incident from their high school days.
 
Was the assailant super-fan Ruby Jetson (Gaby Hoffman, hilariously batty here)? Rich snob Gia (Krysten Ritter)? Corrupt sheriff Dan Lamb (Jerry O’Connell)? Idiot surfer Dick (Ryan Hansen, “Party Down”)? Or any number of other suspicious Neptune-ites? The mystery consumes Veronica, no matter what the damage it’s doing to her personal and career prospects back east. I realize I’m late on this, not having seen the show, but Bell is flat-out terrific, mixing spunk, smarts in a way that brings to mind the leading ladies of Hollywood’s golden age. There aren’t a lot of people working today who merit comparison to the likes of Jean Arthur and Rosalind Russell, but Bell’s working on that level here.
 
The ensemble cast is generally fast and funny, zipping through the script’s clever repartee, and even “Mars” newcomers will find themselves welcome in their company, even if we don’t always know who’s an ally and who’s secretly a murderer. There’s one odd bit of casting, although saying so might be high treason to the show’s fans: Bell has lots more screen chemistry with Lowell than she does with Dohring, and it throws off the balance, turning what should be an equilateral love triangle into an isosceles one.
The romance aside, however, “Veronica Mars” makes the jokes witty, the mystery challenging and the suspense and action tense. You don’t have to have tuned in to the small-screen version to enjoy it on the big one.
 
The “Veronica Mars” movie — hard-earned by the loyalty of its fandom via a Kickstarter campaign — goes a long way to fill the void left behind when The CW canceled it in 2007.
When we catch up with Veronica (Kristen Bell), she has done a really good job of leaving the dark world of her gumshoe past behind. She’s a recent law school grad living in New York City and she even picked the “right” guy, Piz (Chris Lowell).
But one call from frenemy/ex-lover Logan (Jason Dohring) — who’s accused of killing his pop star girlfriend, Bonnie DeVille aka Carrie (Andrea Estella, who replaces Leighton Meester from the series) — pulls her back to Neptune. Even when she aims to stay just a few days, we know there’s no way that’s true.
 
Creator Rob Thomas, who co-wrote the film with series executive producer Diane Ruggiero, uncovers Veronica’s deep addiction to making things right. It’s not a hard feeling for fans of the series to tap into as it’s the same addiction we feel when we love a TV show. What’s binge-watching if not a form of addictive behavior? So, we can quickly understand how Veronica can find herself knee-deep in Neptune’s class war once again.
As luck would have it, the trip coincides with Veronica’s class reunion so the whole gang is back too: Mac (Tina Majorino), who’s feeling her oats and ready to rub her success and hot makeover into the faces of her old judgmental classmates; Wallace (Percy Daggs III) who’s now a basketball coach at Neptune High (ahoy!); and Dick (Ryan Hansen) is back unchanged as if it was just yesterday that exploding fist pumps were the thing.
Veronica has plenty of quick run-ins with alums who each seem to deliver a quick rundown of their history with the former teen detective. I saw these bits of expository as necessary evils to bring newbies up to speed, so I forgave them. Bell is back in true form. Her physicality, her ability to drop the witty turn of phrases and then lend gravity to situations when needed are still spot-on.
 
Enrico Colantoni, who plays Veronica’s private eye father, and Bell still have the great chemistry we remember from the series. He’s looking out for her, but also knows that he can’t keep her from doing what she wants. The movie does play off the raging fan war between Veronica’s men: Logan and Piz. Dohring is still excellent at pulling off dark and unpredictable, although Logan is less of a loose cannon after joining the military in the time that’s elapsed. And Lowell, whose character is being courted by NPR, still feels like a puppy you just want to shield from pain.
 
The movie takes a good while setting up the town, the crew of new and old characters and the clues that may or may not lead Veronica to clearing Logan’s name. That story builds to a thrilling pace, though, and shows that Thomas/Ruggiero have a firm grasp of what makes this chapter worthy of being shown in theaters and not just an extended episode of “Veronica Mars.” Even better than its central murder story, the movie also gets that like Veronica, the show’s fans have grown up too. That’s new for this franchise.
While we’re not fighting our urge to sleuth, we have made decisions that probably contradict who we really are. We can understand how Veronica battles with the “adult” thing to do versus the thing that makes her who she really is because we’ve fought similar battles of our own since “Veronica Mars” was on TV. It’s called growing up. In Veronica’s life, that battle represents themselves as Logan versus Piz, tell dad the truth or keep him in the dark, risk her life or walk away now and stay in Neptune or take that Big City lawyering job. (RTRS)
 
It’s a battle she fights over and over again throughout the movie and it’s that battle that makes the movie truly a new chapter for fans of the TV series. In this case, the “wrong” decision can lead to many more “Veronica Mars” stories to come, so if sleuthing is wrong we don’t want Veronica to be right. (RTRS)
 

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