Coupon clipping leads to multimillion-dollar fraud in a funnier than expected ensemble comedy with a lot of heart. Loosely based on a true story, Queenpins has two struggling Phoenix women turning their savings addiction into big money organized crime. Kristen Bell leads a talented cast of Hollywood veterans. They elevate the written material with their performances. Queenpins delivers sizable laughs, but runs way too long. The film clocks in at an hour and fifty minutes when it could easily have been leaner.
Connie Kaminski (Kristen Bell) lives in a middle-class Phoenix suburb with her drab, IRS auditor husband (Joel McHale). A former Olympics race walking champion, Connie recently had a miscarriage after racking up a sizable debt in fertility treatments. She channels her grief into clipping coupons and turning her nursery into a home warehouse. Kirby Howell-Baptiste co-stars as JoJo Johnson, Connie’s next door neighbor, wannabe YouTube star, and a failed cosmetics seller. Who’s also become addicted to coupons.
A fateful bowl of stale Wheaties forces Connie to write General Mills a stern complaint letter. A devilish scheme occurs to Connie when she receives a free replacement coupon. Several months later, Ken Miller (Paul Walter Hauser), an anal-retentive loss prevention officer for a supermarket chain, notices an onslaught of fraudulent coupons. The FBI doesn’t take him seriously, but the US Postal Service does. A postal inspector (Vince Vaughn) is assigned to investigate with Ken as a tagalong.
Queenpins works as a lighthearted escape. I watched this film after a day of hurricanes, wildfires, Afghanistan, and pandemic news. There’s no antagonist or villain here. The women get their comeuppance, but in a positive way. The film focuses on female empowerment without being preachy or sanctimonious. Every character is likeable. You root for them to succeed and learn the lesson for their crimes.
Paul Walter Hauser steals the show. He’s hilarious as a rabid coupon stickler on the hunt for baddies. His banter with Vince Vaughn is the best part of the film. Vaughn plays the straight man while Hauser’s character fulfills his cop fantasy. Their comic timing is superb. A stakeout scene had me almost laughing to tears. Hauser has the ability to look foolish without being a clown. You actually end up liking him as the story progresses. Hauser was fantastic in his portrayal of the falsely accused 1996 Summer Olympics bombing suspect Richard Jewell. He moves seamlessly between drama and comedy. Paul Walter Hauser is quietly building a fantastic resume.
Queenpins needs to be twenty minutes shorter. The filmmakers attempt a dramatic subplot with Connie’s pregnancy efforts. It feels saccharine and detracts from the whimsical tone. I understand the need to show the protagonist’s growth. She wants to have a child and will do it on her own terms. That’s understood, but the dramatic swing unnecessarily tempers the film’s humor. Queenpins is a pleasant surprise. I laughed consistently throughout. Queenpins is produced by AGC Studios, Red Hour Productions, and Marquee Entertainment. It will be released theatrically on September 10th from STX Films.
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