Seven years after the end of the television series, 'Veronica Mars' returns with a full-length feature film (thanks in part to a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign), reuniting star Kristen Bell with all of those familiar faces for a brand new mystery that hits pretty close to home for the former teen detective -- this case hits right in the middle of her hometown, in fact, dragging her back from her new life in New York for one last job ... or is it? Both old school fans and newbies alike will find plenty to love in Rob Thomas' 'Veronica Mars' movie, which blends the series' particular brand of wry humor with an exciting new mystery, familiar faces, and some new blood. 

Like an retired and exhausted cop called upon for one last case, Veronica Mars is pulled back to the fictional city of Neptune to solve a new mystery, and this one's pretty personal: her old beau Logan Echolls (cue oohs and ahhs from the smitten fans) has been accused of murdering his beautiful pop star girlfriend, and like an addict, Veronica can't stay away -- both from Logan, and from the case. Although she has a great new life in New York, where she's on the verge of accepting her first major gig at a law firm and has a pretty sweet boyfriend (who works for Ira Glass and This American Life at NPR), old habits die hard.

For the uninitiated and initiated alike, the opening credits sequence of the film gives us a recap of Veronica's life through high school up until now, with Bell providing her signature voiceover to get us up to speed. Like the series, her voiceover is employed throughout the film, albeit smartly and with some restraint, and while at times the film does feel like a shortened, brand new season of 'Veronica Mars,' edited together as a feature length film, that's not a bad thing. As a television series adapted to film, you want the end result to straddle the line between both worlds, and this does so quite beautifully -- it has the look of a movie with the episodic feel of the now-classic television series, albeit a bit more mature, just like Veronica herself.

And although I myself am not very well acquainted with the series, I still had a blast spending time with Veronica and her friends. The writing is clever and incredibly snappy, and Thomas makes every moment count. Thomas, who also gave us the unfortunately short-lived but hilarious 'Party Down' series, really understands the value of pacing and timing in a way that some traditional filmmakers probably can't, thanks to the time he's spent on television. That background serves him incredibly well here, although there are times when he perhaps leans a little too heavily on the music cues, as television folk tend to do, and the melodramatic moments get too soapy, feeling reminiscent of an episode of 'The O.C.'

Bell and the old school cast are charming and seem to ease right back into character like they never left Neptune (Ryan Hansen in particular is insanely hilarious), but credit should go to some of the newer additions as well, specifically Gaby Hoffmann, who plays a psychotic stalker fan of Logan's dead pop star girlfriend. Hoffmann does the eccentric nut job thing so well, but unlike her recent roles on 'Girls' and in 'Crystal Fairy,' she's a bit more restrained here, and she finds something more humane and needy hiding in the character of Della Pugh. Krysten Ritter is similarly wonderful in a supporting role, playing into type as a stuck-up socialite, but Thomas and Ritter find depth in her character, as Thomas does with all his characters, taking these archetypes and giving them layers and contrast.

'Veronica Mars' will inevitably delight fans of the series to no end, but newbies shouldn't be shy -- it's actually quite the perfect introduction to the series, and as someone who never really watched more than a few minutes of the show, I'm more pumped than ever to sit down and marathon all three seasons when I get a chance. It's witty, it's fast-paced and smart, and Mars is the real deal heroine: an intelligent lady who helps those in need and sticks to her guns.

Review Rating

'Veronica Mars' opens in select theaters on March 14.

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