As surprising as it may be, the new star-studded comedy, Queenpins, is based on an outrageously true story about a pair of coupon scammers.
Suburban homemaker Connie Kaminski (Kristen Bell) is every cashier’s worst nightmare. You’ve rung her up and have a line of customers behind her. When you least expect it, she pulls out her stack of coupons. And then, you have to deal with all of those. By the time everything is said and done, she’s saving maybe a hundred and paying a few bucks before moving on with her day. Put it this way: if you see someone like Connie at stores, it is of the utmost importance to find a different register to ring you up. You can thank me later!
Connie’s best friend, JoJo Johnson (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), is a video blogger with dreams of her own. JoJo is in a rut and living with her mother. When Connie opens stale cereal and complains about it, she opens her mail to discover a coupon for a free box. Next thing you know, she’s mailing off to other places with her faux complaints. For Connie, who owns enough of everything to fill up a bomb shelter, it’s all about saving the money. Connie and JoJo learn where the coupons are coming from, drive down to Mexico and find an employee willing to help them out. Help me, help you, right? Next thing you know, they set up a site and make millions of dollars by selling free coupons. One thing leads to another–including a meeting with cyber-thief (Bebe Rexha)–before things spiral out of control with all of the “dirt money.”
Writers/directors Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly have a fun thing going here. They incorporate some of the real-life elements after doing the research but create new characters for the film. While this film is a buddy comedy (multiple, actually), it doesn’t play along with the basic tropes. Both Connie and JoJo have their own issues going on beyond working together. Look at Connie–her extreme couponing and then turning into a scammer sees her marriage falling apart! JoJo’s economic situation sees her in a not-so-great place. Anyway, Connie is much like the filmmakers in real life in feeling undervalued.
It’s almost like we have two films in one. This certainly is not a bad thing! The film follows best friends Connie and JoJo in all of their antics. The film is an on-screen reunion for Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste so their chemistry is natural. You find yourself rooting for them even while they’re breaking the law! Meanwhile, Loss Prevention Officer Ken Miller (Paul Walter Hauser) and U.S. Postal Inspector Simon Kilmurry (Vince Vaughn) could also be characters in a separate buddy cop comedy. Personally, I could definitely see a spinoff of some sort with their characters. They’re so fun together on screen. Anyway, I love how Miller is upset that he can’t get the FBI and settles for a U.S. Postal Inspector. If you’ve never known what a U.S. Postal Inspector does, you’re in for a treat.
Let me say this about character actor Paul Walter Hauser–the man can do no wrong. No matter what film he is in, the actor brings his A game. It’s certainly the case in this film, which I believe is his 3rd feature film of 2021, joining both Eat Wheaties and Cruella. I cannot wait to see what he does next!
Joel McHale plays against type as Connie’s husband, Rick. Beyond the film’s core cast, the film features the likes of Second City alumni Jamison Webb and Paul Jurewicz. Both have minimal screen time but they make the best of their limited minutes in the film.
My usual pandemic disclaimer: this film is releasing in theaters but you must do what you feel is right. While I recommend the film, I watched a digital press screener in my apartment. However, I would have loved the full big-screen experience with an audience but I’m not at that level of comfort. If you miss the film in theaters or don’t have a Cinemark in your market, Queenpins will be available to watch through Paramount+ before the end of the month.
Queenpins pulls out all the stops and never stops bringing the fun in this two-films-in-one comedy. It’s a fun escapist comedy to watch right now.
DIRECTORS/SCREENWRITERS: Aron Gaudet & Gita Pullapilly
CAST: Kristen Bell, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Paul Walter Hauser, Joel McHale, with Bebe Rexha and Vince Vaughn