Veronica Mars (US - BD RA)
Jonathan checks out the movie continuation of the popular show...
Years after walking away from her past as a teenage private eye, Veronica Mars gets pulled back to her home town, an ex-boyfriend with baggage and an unravelling murder mystery. (From the Warner Bros synopsis)
Nearly seven years after its cancellation on The CW, Veronica Mars has been brought back to life after a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign convinced Warner Bros that there was still a great interest in this story. I remember enjoying the first couple seasons of the series back when I was in high school. It was pretty corny at times, but as far as teenage detective stories go this one was unusually intriguing. It also benefited greatly from the charm of Kristen Bell and many of the supporting cast members. I could barely remember any of the specifics though. Having never finished the third season, I decided to cruise through it on Amazon Prime in preparation for this review, and I'm really glad I did. Getting to re-familiarize with the characters and the seedy fictional town of Neptune, California definitely added to my appreciation of the movie.
When we get back in touch with Veronica Mars she has escaped Neptune, interviewing for a job at a reputable law firm in New York City. Before she can hear back about her job she discovers on the news that Bonnie DeVille, an old classmate of her's, was murdered in Neptune. And her ex-boyfriend Logan Echolls is the prime suspect. She leaves for Neptune to help Logan choose a good lawyer for the case, but you know how this goes. Once she is pulled back into the world of Neptune she can't help but stay and try to solve the case on her own.
Sometimes bringing back a television show for a movie does not go well. I'm still trying to get over the painful Dead Like Me: Life After Death. Thankfully most of the original cast was game for the movie, and the casting directors didn't try to replace any of the actors. This movie has also been a passion project for show runner and director Rob Thomas, so he wants to make it something special. Taking place a good while after the show ended, this feature film has the advantage of perspective and it is used well. The show runners and characters have grown up. Everyone has jobs, and Logan Echolls has ditched the muscle shirts and surfer necklaces. The tone remains largely the same as the show, but just by being outside of a school campus it feels like a more mature setting and like there is more at stake. The storytelling doesn't transcend any of the material the show had either, but the large gap in time still makes it feel richer. The chemistry between characters is still perfectly intact, including the endearing bond between Veronica and her private investigator father, Keith.
In the end the plot doesn't amount to much more than a good episode of the show. It still relies on some contrivances and old detective cliches like bad guys giving too much exposition while a microphone is recording them. But that is the same cloth the show was cut from, and really where fan expectations should be. Not every show growing up into a movie needs to take its scale to a whole new level, and the creators know what the fans want to see without the result feeling too pandering. I cannot imagine a fan of the series being upset with what Rob Thomas and company have delivered here. The story feels right at home with what the show gave us, the script is faithful to the characters, and you'll even find the Dandy Warhol's opening theme song cleverly integrated into an opening scene to remind you that you're back.
Veronica Mars has abandoned its TV look and is going for a more stylish look in this film version. It was shot on the Arri Alexa digital camera, but stylized color choices keep the image from looking as natural and well balanced as most movies shot on the same system. The transfer looks best in well lit outdoor scenes (see cap number six) where you can make out a ton of detail, but struggles during some darker scenes, with blacks almost taking on a blueish hue as a result of the color tampering. But these distractions are minor and far apart. More often than not the transfer looks good and maintains a perfectly healthy bitrate. Director Rob Thomas takes a modest approach to the visual style of the film, which might be a little bland from time to time but feels like a natural transition from the television show, which was never very flashy in the cinematography department.
This DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is not especially flashy, but makes great use of the space when a scene calls for it. Rear channels are used often for background music and chatter at the many gatherings and parties that take place in the movie. There are some scenes involving vehicles that have a very appropriate and convincing directionality. It was a lot more than I expected after watching the show's third season, which has a relatively flat sound design. The soundtrack, which consists of the original Dandy Warhols tune among many other additions, sounds very nice in this lossless track. There isn't a large dynamic range to behold when music isn't playing, usually just dialogue and then some background noise layered in, but the mix feels appropriate for the material here. The mix is never dull and should satisfy anybody with their expectations in the right place.
The short list of extras kicks off with By the Fans: The Making of the Veronica Mars Movie (HD, 55:43). Instead of a traditional behind-the-scenes look, this making of is dedicated to the successful Kickstarter project that led to this movie's creation. Show creator and movie director Rob Thomas seemed very genuinely nervous about how the funding was going to go and then was absolutely blown away by the response. The movie reached its $2 million goal in 24 hours and went on to make over $5 million total. A lot of the run time here is given to high contributors who had the opportunity to hang out on set with the cast and play extras in the movie. The cast members all come across as affable folks who are very humbled by their fan's support.
Next up is a special feature titled Behind the Scenes: More On-Set Fun which is actually broken up into a bunch of smaller featurettes. There's Welcome to Keith Mars Investigation (HD, 02:54) which is actor Enrico Colantoni giving a tour of his office and goofing around on set. Next is Game Show with Kristen Bell and Chris Lowell (HD, 04:30), which is the actors sitting on set asking each other questions and taking jabs at one another. On Set with Max Greenfield (HD, 03:10) is footage that jumps between an interview with Max Greenfield (who plays Leo D'Amato on the show) and footage of him and Kristen Bell joking around on set. Veronica Mars Backers (HD, 04:45) is more interview footage from backers, much like the footage included in the first special feature. Next up is It's Not All About You Monkey (HD, 02:59) is a segment that cuts between footage of someone dressed as a gorilla and Ken Marino. Just some silly joking around. The last one is Young Veronica (HD, 00:58) is a short interview with a younger actress that has a small part in the movie. The next feature is Deleted Scenes (HD, 04:20). There are four total, most notably some more exchange between Veronica and Keith Mars. There's also some extended TMZ footage. Nothing substantial here. Last of all is a Gag Reel (HD, 04:35), which should be no shock given all the goofing around on set that is present in the other special features. I can't say this made me chuckle much but I'm sure diehard fans will get a kick out of it.
Had I only seen the Veronica Mars movie and not the show, I would admittedly not be very impressed. This is one for the fans, and much of the enjoyment to be had here comes from catching up with old friends. The murder mystery feels secondary to revisiting the lives of Neptune's wide range of characters. If you enjoyed the show there is plenty to love here. This Blu-ray from Warner Bros delivers a solid AV presentation. There's a good amount of extras but they are fluffy.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 6th May 2014
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: By the Fans: The Making of the Veronica Mars Movie, More On-Set Fun, Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel, Ultraviolet Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Rob Thomas
Cast: Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni
Genre: Comedy, Crime and Drama
Length: 108 minutes
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