QUEENPINS is directed by Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly. The film stars Kristen Bell, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Paul Walter Hauser, Bebe Rexha, and Vince Vaughn. Ben Stiller serves an executive producer. The film is based on a true story.
Connie is a housewife married to a successful IRS audit agent. She’s also a former Olympic race walker and obsessed with couponing following her failure to have a child. Her best friend is JoJo, who is in the cosmetics sales business but is unsuccessful. Upon Connie discovering it’s possible to receive free products by submitting complaint letters, the twosome hatches a scheme to stockpile and sell coupons at a discounted rate, still fetching a massive profit. Meanwhile, an overzealous loss prevention agent from a grocery store chain becomes aware of the potential fraud in process, reporting his findings to the FBI and teaming with a reluctant postal inspector. Will Connie and JoJo’s scheme be a profitable and successful one, or will their greed get the better of them?
Given how many things I’ve seen on TV about couponing and the ridiculous extents to which some people take it, I have to say I’m surprised I haven’t seen anything along those lines appearing in a feature film’s plot. That is, until now, with the arrival of QUEENPINS! It’s a stranger-than-fiction story of cash generation gone horribly wrong and overboard in the blink of an eye. The superb casting choices and a tone that balances the comedic and the realistic makes this a movie that’s got to be seen to be believed.
The leading par of Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste make the movie. If the filmmakers were looking for two unassuming women who have their lives flipped upside down by rash decisions and a personal want to do something better in their lives by cheating overly wealthy corporations, regardless of the potential unethical nature of their scheme, they couldn’t have done better than this twosome. Every scene with the two together is a delight, from their distraught moments in a tiresome marriage and a dead-end job, respectively, to their foolhardy decisions to go bigger with their scam. QUEENPINS is laugh-out-loud hilarious around every corner, and this pair of women steal the show, remaining likable despite what they’re up to.
The other end of the spectrum fares just as well. Vince Vaughn shines as a tough-as-nails postal inspector overly proud of his position, but the real star of the show here is Paul Walter Hauser (COBRA KAI, CRUELLA, RICHARD JEWELL), a no-nonsense loss prevention agent who first discovers the potential couponing scheme in action. Hauser is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors, because there’s literally nothing the guy can’t do. When he gets his chance to shine with a case that could define his career and life, he goes for broke with absolutely hilarious results. I could spend an entire article talking about the hilarious things Hauser says and does in this film, but I won’t since I want to keep this review a spoiler-free one. Rest assured, though, he doesn’t disappoint, and the chemistry he shares with Vaughn, while initially apprehensive, is one of the movie’s biggest strengths.
Despite a running time of approximately 110 minutes (admittedly a little too long for most comedies), the movie retains a breezy and light-hearted comedic tone and never feels like it’s dragging. Part of the reason QUEENPINS stands as a strong and entertaining comedy is because of its relatable characters and situations. Who among us hasn’t been stuck in a dead-end job, and has thought about ways to get out of their situation? I in no way condone the behavior of the heroines (if you can call them that) of this movie, but that didn’t stop me from finding them relatable, entertaining, and well worth spending nearly two hours of my time with.
If there’s one minor complaint to be had here with an otherwise stellar and laugh-worthy comedy, is that certain characters and plot elements don’t get explored as deeply as they should. Sometimes, the characters who seem like the have serious potential, including a low-ranking young FBI agent, a woman who once scammed JoJo that the girls turn to for aid, and a Mexican couple in on the couponing scheme, are cast by the wayside and largely forgotten in the grand scheme of things. A few more scenes with these characters and maybe some light trimming elsewhere may have helped the final product, but this is a minor criticism.
One other minor criticism (though this one doesn’t in any way impact my opinion of the film) – Why does the film use a fictional United States Postal Service logo? It seems odd the movie uses the legitimate name of United States Postal Service, but has a fictional “star” logo. Guessing this was for legal reasons or something similar. Just thought it was worth mentioning.
QUEENPINS could be the unexpected sleeper comedy hit for the end of summer and the beginning of fall, and it’s well worth your time if you want to laugh. A highly recommended laugh-worthy experience!