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Thursday, March 27, 2014 12:01 am

Mars movie for fans only


The release of Veronica Mars, the big screen continuation of the cult television show, will be remembered for being a watershed moment in the history of film distribution. Financed by fans through a Kickstarter campaign, it’s the first studio-sponsored feature to be released in theaters the same day that it was available through pay-per-view services. The success of this venture was mixed at best. While showing in only 291 theaters, the film brought in a respectable $2 million. However, with a $6-million budget, some are calling it a failure, which is a premature judgment. The final numbers are not yet in regarding how many fans shelled out $10 to watch the movie in the comfort of their homes. That many had trouble downloading it and getting refunds for their trouble is another issue altogether but it points to the fact that digital platforms may not be ready to handle a wide day-and-date release of a major Hollywood feature.

In the end, how the film fares under this release model is far more interesting than the film itself. It plays like nothing more than an extended episode of the series with nothing visually distinctive about it to warrant seeing it on a big screen. For that matter, the story itself is nothing to write home about. The mystery that the comely Miss Mars gets involved with is standard fare. When one character makes a comparison to her adventures and those that took place on “Murder, She Wrote,” I couldn’t help but think that a more accurate comparison had never been made before.

Having vowed never to return to her hometown of Neptune, Calif. for her 10-year high school reunion, Veronica (Kristin Bell) finds herself doing just that. She flies cross-country from New York City when she finds out her old beau Logan (Jason Dohring) has been accused of murder. Before she knows it, our Nancy Drew is sucked back into the vacuous lives of her former high school peers, dealing with past grudges and petty behavior as she attempts to solve the murder of a pop singer with ties to those at Neptune High.

Even though writer/director Rob Thomas does a nice job of trying to get everyone up to speed with all things Mars during a slick opening credits sequence that provides outsiders with the nuts and bolts of the show, there’s no question that devotees of the program are the only ones who will catch all of the inside jokes and understand the import of the relationships at play. And that’s fine – after all, they’re the ones who donated money to get the film made so it should be made to please them. However, from this small sampling, I was left scratching my head. After seeing Veronica leave her sweet fiancé in New York and cheat on him, after seeing her and Logan struggle to create any sort of chemistry and having to witness a mystery that would be more at home on Scooby-Doo than in a feature film, I couldn’t help but wonder what all the fuss is about where Mars is concerned.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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