Seeing as how “Veronica Mars,” the big-screen adaptation of the cult TV show about a young sleuth in a tony beach town, was funded directly by fans via Kickstarter, it should come as relief but little surprise that film critics are saying the movie will delight devotees.
For moviegoers unfamiliar with Kristen Bell’s whip-smart, case-cracking title character, however, reviewers say “Veronica Mars” will hold less appeal.
The Times’ Betsy Sharkey noted that more than 91,000 fans ponied up to fund the film and said “it is clear in every frame that the filmmakers and actors really appreciate that loyalty. It doesn’t make for a particularly ambitious film, but it is a satisfying one as it moves easy, breezy over familiar terrain.”
Sharkey added, “The appeal of ‘Veronica Mars’ from the beginning on TV was the character’s clever mix of self-awareness, intelligence, teenage insecurities, crackling dialogue and an old-school style of sleuthing. All those qualities in a more adult form make their way to the big screen right along with Bell, who slips into character like an old pair of jeans.”
Manohla Dargis of the New York Times called the “Veronica Mars” movie “a likable, unmemorable, feature-length footnote to the admired television series.” Dargis goes on to say that “it’s nice to see Ms. Bell and some of the other ‘Veronica Mars’ regulars making the rounds. ... The problem is that [director and co-writer Rob] Thomas can’t make the case or his story convincing. ... It’s hard to believe that Veronica, having matured into the totally together woman you always knew she would become, would honestly want to return to this pitiful small town other than for a visit with Dad.”
The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips wrote, “Everything about the way the movie version of ‘Veronica Mars’ came to pass is more intriguing than the movie itself.” Kickstarter aside, "[t]he 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.”
In the Washington Post, Stephanie Merry confessed, “I loved the television show. ... But the movie lacks some of the verve and chemistry that made the series a must-see. I guess that makes the movie more of a good-to-see.” She added that “Thomas has a gift for well-paced, expertly plotted stories,” and that “the pithy dialogue is there too, although he leans heavily on self-conscious winking at those in the know.”
The biggest problem, she wrote, is the “lackluster chemistry” between the two leads: “Is it that Bell and [Jason] Dohring can’t muster the same pulsating attraction? Quite possibly. But it could also be that we’ve all grown up, and Veronica should have, too.”
The Boston Globe’s Ty Burr said of “Veronica Mars": “They’re calling it a movie, but no matter how you squint at it, it’s a TV show.” He continued, “This is very good news for the ‘Marshmallows’ -- fans of the ‘Veronica Mars’ series that ran from 2004 to 2007 on UPN and its successor network, the CW, before getting canned between seasons. In practical terms, it’s irrelevant to everyone else.”
USA Today’s Claudia Puig, however, would disagree. She said “Veronica Mars” is “a film noir detective story that works for both devotees of the series and the uninitiated,” with Bell proving “as sharp, engaging and witty as ever. Maturity has only made her more charming.”
The movie, Puig said, “works as a suspense thriller, and also as a gentle send-up of the genre. It’s effective as a sequel to the television series and works just as well as a stand-alone film.”