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'Veronica Mars' review: What fans would expect -- another series episode

Kristen Bell in a scene from the "Veronica

Kristen Bell in a scene from the "Veronica Mars" movie. Credit: AP / Robert Voets

When we last left Veronica Mars, the teenage private eye played by Kristen Bell, she was investigating crime and corruption in seaside Neptune, Calif. Unfortunately, she ran afoul of a ruthless syndicate: the suits at The CW network, who canceled "Veronica Mars" after three seasons in 2007. Despite an outcry from fans, who sent the network more than 10,000 Mars candy bars, our heroine vanished, leaving her case-files open and her love triangle unresolved.

Years later, fans found a better strategy than mass-mailing nougat. In a now-famous show of viewer muscle, they funded a "Veronica Mars" movie spearheaded by show creator Rob Thomas at the crowdfunding site Kickstarter. By the time the movie's funding period closed, in March 2013, it had broken Kickstarter records for the most money raised, $5.7 million. Even now, it's the site's third most-funded project.

That's an impressive and heartwarming story, but the result is a movie literally by and for the fans. "Veronica Mars" isn't really a movie but another episode -- and not even a grand finale -- with all the familiar characters and in-jokes that viewers expect. To those coming in midseason, as it were, it has less to offer.

Its teen-soap plot is mostly an excuse to bring back beloved faces. Veronica, now a Columbia law grad, reluctantly returns to Neptune to prove that her ex-boyfriend, Logan (Jason Dohring), didn't murder his pop-star lover, Bonnie DeVille (Andrea Estella, replacing Leighton Meester). Enrico Colantonti is back as her father, Keith Mars.

Coincidentally, it's also Veronica's 10-year high school reunion, which means catching up with old friends and nemeses. James Franco plays himself in a semi-amusing cameo.

Functionally written and directed by Thomas, "Veronica Mars" should be a happy event for longtime viewers. Since it's available via video-on-demand, even they might prefer to see it on the small screen, just like in the old days.

PLOT A former private eye returns to her corrupt hometown to help a desperate friend.

RATING PG-13 (sexuality, drug content, violence)

CAST Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Chris Lowell

LENGTH 1:48.

BOTTOM LINE Essentially an additional episode of the canceled television series, with all the characters and in-jokes that fans will expect. The rest of us aren't really invited.

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