If you were lucky enough to catch Veronica Mars during its three-year UPN/WB run in the mid-00s (or smart enough to binge-watch it at any point since), well… welcome home, Marshmallows.

The famously Kickstarter-funded feature film arrives in theaters first and foremost for fans of the show. (If you never watched the show, the film is fine as a fun and quirky murder mystery, but… what’s the point?) Show creator Rob Thomas has taken $5.7 million from 91,585 fans (full disclosure: I’m among them) and crafted perhaps the most expensive (and entertaining) thank you note in history.

Picking up ten years after the teenage super-sleuth and her buds graduated from Neptune High (Go Pirates!), the film opens with Veronica (Kristen Bell) sitting down to interview for a spot in a hot-shot New York law firm. Then she catches a glimpse of a news program, where she learns that her back-home, bad-boy ex Logan (Jason Dohring) is being accused in the murder of his pop-star girlfriend Carrie Bishop (Andrea Estella)– now going by the stage name Bonnie DeVille. One “help me” call from Logan, and Veronica is hopping a plane back to the 90909.

And just like that, the band is back together. The whole band. Veronica’s pals Mac (Tina Majorino), Wallace (Percy Daggs III), and Weevil (Francis Capra), along with nemeses Dick (Ryan Hansen) and queen bee Madison (Amanda Noret), are all along for the ride. And the cavalcade of appearances by many of the show’s other supporting players only adds to the fun, along with a handful of un-show cameos– none of which I’ll spoil here.

As any fan of the show will tell you, the mystery-du-jour is secondary; this was a show (and is a movie) about whip-smart Veronica, her cool-as-hell pops Keith (Enrico Colantoni), the cracker-jack dialogue (deliciously loaded with snark and sarcasm), and the trials and tribulations of the young Miss Mars’ love life. The film version, thankfully, is no different.

Thomas, who wrote the screenplay with the series’ head writer Diane Ruggerio, wisely decided to stick with the formula that garnered the show all its fans in the first place. And they don’t miss a beat; it’s almost as if the show never left.

The only downside is that it’s so entirely fun to travel back to Neptune in Veronica Mars that it’ll make you wish you never had to say goodbye in the first place. But if fan fervor is any indicator (seriously– almost six million dollars!), it’s a trip that may not be ending (again) just yet. The movie’s ending is, appropriately enough, wide open for a return trip.

And that’s pretty cool, soda pop.

4/5 stars