Everything about the way the movie version of "Veronica Mars" came to pass is more intriguing than the movie itself.
Canceled in 2007 by the CW network after three seasons, creator Rob Thomas' wised-up danger magnet of a teenage sleuth, portrayed by Kristen Bell, left the show's ardent core audience hungry for more. Then God created Kickstarter, and nearly 100,000 fans contributed $5.7 million to the campaign, bringing Ms. Mars, her detective pop and various skeezes and climbers residing in the fictional, corrupt beach town of Neptune, Calif., to the big screen. Warners said fine, let's do it. The resulting crowdfunded feature is the first major studio release to open in theaters and online simultaneously.
The film, which is adequate , cares not about the newbies. Although "Veronica Mars" does its duty in identifying the major characters on the fly, as they make their entrances and get out of the way, this one's strictly for the fan base.
The film's air of take-it-or-leave-it has its charms, but the murder mystery itself isn't one of them. Series creator Thomas directs the film, which he co-wrote with series producer Diane Ruggiero. Now in Manhattan and about to become a highly compensated and therefore soulless attorney (Jamie Lee Curtis has a too-brief scene as a legal bigwig), Veronica has settled into a placid relationship with Piz (Chris Lowell), from the series.
Then, trouble back in Neptune! Veronica's former classmate Bonnie DeVille (Andrea Estella), a self-destructive pop star dating Veronica's ex-boyfriend, is electrocuted in a bathtub. Prime suspects include the boyfriend, Logan, played by series fave Jason Dohring, so low-key he threatens to drift off to some other movie when nobody's looking. Logan contacts Veronica for legal advice. She returns to Neptune, and the movie is off and running, or, rather, off and gliding, painlessly, dropping the occasional witty one-liner about tantric sex or James Franco, the latter making a cameo.
As the heroine's genial dad, Enrico Colantoni remains a chief asset, and his father/daughter rapport with Bell is well-established. On the other hand … the leads are so comfortable in their grooves, the movie proceeds at a scarily low pulse rate, even when people end up in intensive care and more bodies are found.
If there are to be more of these movies — Thomas has Veronica Mars novels planned and ready to go — it wouldn't hurt to pay more attention to the mystery inside the story. That would be a service to everybody, including the pre-sold fan base. Most of the clues in "Veronica Mars" pertain either to Internet sex tapes or the various surveillance uses of the latest tablets. Anybody who works in tech support will probably enjoy the film a tad more than I did.
"Veronica Mars" - 2 stars
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for sexuality including references, drug content, violence and some strong language)
Running time: 1:47