Too old for Nancy Drew? Too young for Jessica Flectcher? How about Veronica Mars?
For three seasons Kristen Bell played the title character on television’s “Veronica Mars,” a teen detective show about a young woman who solved crimes in the upscale town of Neptune, California.
She’s back on the big screen in the inventively titled “Veronica Mars,” co-starring with some familiar faces from the original show, in a reunion movie that sees the former teenaged private eye turned psychologist and Ivy League lawyer pulled back into the PI game when her high school boyfriend (Jason Dohring) is charged with killing his pop star girlfriend.
The movie, which was funded through a Kickstarter campaign, is as cinematic as you might imagine a movie based on a TV show to be. It plays like a longer, blown up version of the show, which will play well to the fans who are hungry for more of their favorite characters, but may leave the uninitiated wondering what the fuss is all about.
Veronica Mars is an engaging character and Bell wears her like a glove, tossing off some zingy one-liners—“You won’t shoot me,” says a bad guy. “Why does everyone say that?” Mars replies, pulling the trigger—and bringing an easy charm to the role.
It’s too bad the story plays like an old episode of “Murder She Wrote,” with none of the sophistication we would expect from a big screen outing. “Veronica Mars” is a character based piece, with the murder tagged on to give us a reason for watching, but it would have been more interesting if the death was more than just a McGuffin.
On the plus side there is a nod to Canada—in the form of a sloppy karaoke version of our national anthem—and there’s even a Barenaked Ladies gag.
The opening scene of Nancy Drew: Mystery in the Hollywood Hills answers many questions.
Firstly: Is it possible for a relative of a movie superstar to make a credible debut in a summer movie? (Yes! Emma Roberts, daughter of Eric, niece of Julia has the right balance of all-American girl and chutzpah needed to bring the beloved literary character Nancy Drew to life.Like her famous aunt, she’s all eyes, teeth and lips, but the perpetual look of astonishment on her face serves her well here. I don’t know if she can do anything else, but she pulls this off.)
Secondly: What’s in Nancy Drew’s Slueth Bag? (Everything you need to solve crimes. It’s so well equipped McGuyver would turn green with envy.)
Thirdly: Whatever happened to Chris Kattan? (His regular spot on Saturday Night Live now a dim memory, apparently he now passes the time making cameo appearances in kid’s movies.)
In the updated Nancy Drew the girl detective and her father leave their comfortable home in River Heights, where Nancy has a reputation for landing the bad guys when the police can’t, and move to big, bad Los Angeles. When a 911 operator laughs at her for calling in the robbery of her moccasins and notebook Nancy discovers that LA isn’t nearly as friendly as her hometown.
Father and daughter move into a house that looks like Gloria Swanson’s mansion from Sunset Boulevard, where, years before its former owner, movie star Dehlia Draycott, died mysteriously. The case was never solved, but that may change when super sleuth Nancy Drew moves in upstairs.
Nancy, despite promising her father that she’ll hang up her sleuthing bag, figures if she has to move to a new town she may as well have something to keep her mind and sleuthing skills nimble. As she slowly uncovers the sordid details of the case it becomes apparent that there is an evil force who would rather have the case stay just as it is—unsolved.
It’s basically the plot of many of the books, so there’s nothing new there, but the filmmakers have added in some tame action scenes and a chaste love interest to spice things up. It’s solid tween entertainment, although to really grab the 8-12 year-olds the pace should have been picked up a bit. The story may have been updated to include cell phones and designer clothes, but the pacing is pure old-school Nancy Drew.
The new Nancy Drew is amiably good-natured with enough going on to keep the tweens happy, but might not be action oriented enough for older teens and will certainly seem stiff to adults.