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A long time ago (2004-2007), the CW aired a show that combined the hard-boiled detective of film noir classics and the teen drama that drew viewers to its primetime lineup. It was Nancy Drew meets Dick Tracy. The result was Veronica Mars, a gone-too-soon cult classic built on sharp dialogue, a fierce heroine, and a supporting cast of unique characters to love or love to hate. Last year, series creator Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell, the actress behind the titular character, launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the long-anticipated Veronica Mars movie when Warner Bros passed on the project. Within ten hours, fans had donated enough to the project to meet its $2 million goal and break Kickstarter records for crowdfunding. Finally, the film, which Bell has called "a love letter to the fans" has arrived. It's a joyful, thrilling letter that will please old fans and newbies alike.

Veronica Mars picks up nine years after the series ended. Veronica (Bell) was once a successful teenage Private Detective, working gigs for Mars Investigations, the business of her father and former-sheriff Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni). She used her sleuthing skills to bring some justice (sometimes vengefully) to Neptune, California, a town deeply divided between the haves—the '09ers—and the have-nots, including her family. Eventually, however, the cost of being hard-boiled got to be too much for Veronica and her relationships so she went straight, went to Stanford and onto Columbia Law School. The movie picks up with her interviewing at a top New York law firm, working to establish a new career for herself. Before she can get too established, however, she receives an unexpected call from someone in her past. Ex-boyfriend Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), son of the famous action movie star who killed Veronica's best friend, is the prime suspect in the death of his pop star girlfriend and he wants Veronica to come home to Neptune to help him decide on a lawyer. Veronica agrees to the trip, happy to see old friends in town for their ten year high school reunion, but hesitant about getting sucked back into a destructive life she thought she'd left behind.

Naturally, Veronica ends up working the case, trying to prove Logan's innocence. In the meantime, the audience is reunited with beloved characters including Veronica's boyfriend Piz (Chris Lowell); best friends, Wallace (Percy Daggs III) and Mac (Tina Majorino); Logan's sidekick, Dick (Ryan Hansen); former biker gang leader Weevil (Francis Capra)--my favorite; as well as the 09ers who were arguably the real villains of the show. The film masterfully balances the joyful, silly aspects of the cast reuniting with the excitement of a detective case that puts Veronica in as much or more danger than she was in during the tensest moments of the series.

As a die-hard Veronica Mars fan, my expectations for the film were moderate. I often think that movies made from TV shows end up feeling like bonus or extended episodes. The Veronica Mars movie exceeded my expectations by a long shot. I think where the film really succeeded was in raising the stakes. On the TV show, Veronica didn't have much to lose. Some pretty awful things happened, but because the central characters were teenagers, there was often a pretty strong sense of invincibility. Ten years later, Veronica has a lot to lose, personally and in her career. The movie also turns up the drama by making Neptune worse than it was when Veronica left, thanks to the corruption of Neptune's new sheriff, Dan Lamb (Jerry O'Connell). Furthermore, the characters are more adult and their feelings about each other and about the events of the show's three seasons have grown more complicated in the interim. The result is a really successful transition from the 19 year-old Veronica fans loved and the impressive, flawed woman she's become.

Even with all the intensity of the plot—and I did have a couple of moments when I gasped or jumped—there is a lot of humor that draws on the chemistry and the banter that makes Veronica Mars so delicious. A lot of the jokes and smaller moments draw on fans' knowledge of the series, but there's plenty of action and humor for the new audience too. Overall, I could not have been happier with this film. As a fan, I rate Veronica Mars 5/5 stars. If I went into the movie without prior knowledge, it'd probably be a 3.5. Splitting that difference, I rate Veronica Mars 4/5 stars.

Veronica Mars was written and directed by Rob Thomas. It runs 107 minutes and is rated PG-13 for for sexuality including references, drug content, violence and some strong language. It is now playing in select theaters and available digitally on Amazon and iTunes for about the cost of a movie ticket.


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