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story.lead_photo.caption Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) only thought she’d left her days as a Nancy Drew-style investigator behind.

Those who never watched Veronica Mars, a TV series that ran from 2004-07 on the UPN and CW networks, may wonder why some 90,000 rabid fans, known as Marshmallows, contributed more than $5.7 million to bring their adored show to life on the silver screen.

Wonder no more. Just watch the movie. Mystery solved.

The film, although it looks, well, like it’s made for TV, is a sharply written, snarky, funny and fast-moving piece of entertainment that catches up with the TV characters 10 years after their last appearance. At the forefront is the title personality (Kristen Bell, showing off the superb wisecracking skills she continues to hone on Showtime’s House of Lies), a one-time teenage sleuth who lives in the wealthy, corrupt beach town of Neptune, Calif., and spends her high school years figuring out whodunits along with her private investigator dad, Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni), and co-conspirators Mac (Tina Majorino) and Wallace (Percy Daggs III).

After some dark days in Neptune, big-screen Veronica is in a better place now, having acquired an undergraduate degree in psychology from Stanford and a law degree from Columbia. Living in New York with her sweet, smart, perfect boyfriend Piz (Chris Lowell), she gets a coveted job offer from an uppity Manhattan law firm. Life looks great until Veronica notices on the news that fellow high schooler Carrie Bishop, aka rock star Bonnie Deville (Andrea Estella), is dead, having been electrocuted in her bathtub. Suspect No. 1: Carrie/Bonnie’s boyfriend Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), son of a movie star, with whom Veronica has something of a past.

Logan, recalling Veronica’s gumshoe tendencies, asks her for help in clearing his name. He doesn’t have to ask twice. She’s on the first plane heading west, and doesn’t waste a moment of the audience’s time in jumping into the muck of the mystery.

Series creator Rob Thomas wrote and directed the film with confident style. His use of a 10-year reunion while Veronica is in town is an ingenious device to introduce the audience to the sorts of characters that everybody remembers from high school (particularly the be-atchy girls). He’s no slouch at constructing a mystery. Although you needn’t be Sherlock to figure out the perp, it’s not all that obvious.

And Thomas’ incorporation of social media on various tablets, phones and computers not only as a means of communication but as a tool to get to the truth makes the story feel fresh and contemporary. Probably the best example of this is an appearance on YouTube of a hilarious cameo of James Franco (playing himself), trying to squeeze into a too-tight pair of skinny jeans.

Longtime fans and newcomers who find themselves enamored of “Neptune’s own Angela Lansbury” won’t mind that the conclusion of Veronica Mars leaves the door open to a sequel.

Veronica Mars 89 Cast: Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Tina Majorino, Percy Daggs III, Ryan Hansen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Lowell, Max Greenfield, Jerry O’Connell, Enrico Colantoni, Gaby Hoffmann Director: Rob Thomas Rating: PG-13 for sexuality, drug content, violence, language Running time: 107 minutes

MovieStyle, Pages 35 on 03/21/2014

Print Headline: Veronica Mars

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