Kristen Bell returns in the title role, and it's good to have her back
Credit: Courtesy Warner Bros.

Veronica Mars – what a perfect name for a heroine.

It’s one of the great hardboiled names, worthy of being ranked alongside old-school dames like Mildred Pierce and Dolores Claiborne. You know any Veronica Mars worth her salt will have a certain toughness. She’ll be from the school of hard knocks or the wrong side of the tracks. Or both. In either case, she’ll have learned right from wrong. She is nobody’s fool.

It’s so good to have her back.

The new movie Veronica Mars is based on and stars many of the original cast members from the cult TV series, which lasted only three seasons (2004-07). A film by, of and for the fans of the show – an underrated classic of how to write a long-form TV narrative – it was launched as a Kickstarter project by creator-director-writer Rob Thomas.

Veronica – played then, as now, by Kristen Bell with a satiny blondeness and a lip slightly curled in disdain – was a somewhat sour but not necessarily cynical teenage detective. She was Nancy Drew for the age of Monica Lewinsky, when kids were suddenly wised up to a lot of things, like sex and power and money.

Veronica was even ahead of her time, in the sense that while solving cases and pursuing justice she approached life with an attitude that seems to be even stronger today. If the past and the present haven’t screwed you, dear young American, the future definitely will.

Veronica’s mother had been an alcoholic. Her father (Enrico Colantoni) was once the sheriff of Neptune, Calif., but was recalled after a controversial murder investigation. He wound up working as a private eye, with young Veronica as his sidekick and apprentice.

Father and daughter lived under a constant cloud of shame that blocked out all that California sunlight – it fell instead on Veronica’s classmates at Neptune High. These were the kids of millionaires and Hollywood stars, and they flirted with beautiful Veronica while also putting her in her place.

Veronica usually had the last laugh, although it was at most an ironic “heh” delivered with a tight smile.

Very few of us are really Veronicas, but identifying with her is such smart, stealthy fun. That fun is there in the movie, which is really just a deluxe reunion episode – and isn’t that what the devotees (known as Marshmallows) would want?

Wes Anderson’s Veronica Mars would be interesting, too, but that would be about Wes and not Veronica.

Back to Neptune

At the start of the movie, Veronica is in New York City, being interviewed by Jamie Lee Curtis to join a big, swanky law firm. But first she’s called back to old Neptune, where former classmate and seductive bad boy Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) is the prime suspect in the murder of another Neptune High graduate, a pop star known as Bonnie DeVille.

Veronica is also roped into going to her high-school reunion. Insert happy-face emoticon here.

The mystery that grows out of this isn’t spectacular – a wrap-up after 100-odd minutes just isn’t the same as one that comes after a whole season measured out in weeks – but the tone is exactly right, and the passage of a few years has been good on everyone’s looks.

Besides, after True Detective, I wouldn’t care if the culprit turned out to be some animal escaped from the local zoo.

Will Veronica Mars the movie mean anything to someone who hasn’t watched Veronica Mars the TV series? Probably not. But it’s hard to think of a more welcome reboot.