Once upon a time, in the '90s and 2000s, high school was the It milieu for smart TV full of rich metaphor — kind of like how "crime" is these days — from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Freaks and Geeks to Veronica Mars, not to mention the small town-focused, adult-teen dynamics of Gilmore Girls and Friday Night Lights. Each series had strengths and weaknesses compared to the others, of course. At their best, Buffy got right at the life-or-death/end-of-the-world stakes teens feel and Freaks and Geeks nailed the search for self and discomfort in one's own skin.
Veronica Mars captured the extreme cliquishness, jealousies, and class inequities of public high school. For three great seasons (Season 1 is without compare), the show followed its titular heroine (Kristen Bell), a street-smart tough cookie with an ever-ready quip on her lips, as she navigated Neptune, Southern California, walking both sides of the train tracks that separated walled estates and billionaire celebrities on one side and motorcycle gangs and seedy hot-sheet motels on the other.
It all plays out in Neptune High, where Veronica is a pariah. Her father (Enrico Colantoni) is a disgraced former sheriff-cum-P.I. who accused a rich man of killing his own daughter. It doesn't help her social standing that Veronica had been best friends with the dead girl and was dating the accused's son. Forced into loner status, Veronica worked for her father's business, Mars Investigations, assisting with his cases, mostly spouses suspected of cheating, and taking on some of her own, mostly classmates with ruined reputations or vindictive exes.
Veronica Mars was cancelled after three seasons despite fan-base histrionics and critical ardor. Show-runner Rob Thomas tried in vain to get a fourth season greenlighted by network execs, even going so far as to advance the plot years into the future, when Veronica would have graduated from college and be a rookie FBI agent.
The show slipped into the ether until, strangely, technology advanced far enough to make a return possible. In 2013, Thomas launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough funds to get a Veronica Mars film off the ground and prove its marketability to the studio. The campaign was a huge success, and, just a year after it began, the film is finally out in theaters and VOD.
The first minutes of the film are an extended "Previously On" segment. It's a whirlwind amount of information to convey to any newbies or forgetful types who may be in the audience, but it also does a nice job of reinforcing the basics of the premise throughout the movie while still updating the universe for veterans. After all, it's been nine years since these characters were last seen, and most of them aren't exactly where they were left.
Veronica escaped Neptune and is now a law school grad being wooed by a big NYC firm. She gets called back home, though, when her former flame, Logan (Jason Dohring), is accused of murder. Coincidentally, it's also the weekend of her class' 10th reunion. Like a recovering addict tempted once again by the spike, Veronica struggles to sort out her feelings about the relative merits of her old and new lives.
The film Veronica Mars isn't flawless, but it is, essentially, perfect. The plot is tricksy enough, and the cast game enough that it would've made for a great 24-episode season. Instead, we get a great 107-minute movie. Kinda hard to complain about any kind of life at all after years of death. So, can Terriers get some of that zombie magic?