There are times when it feels like Aaron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly's Queenpins knows it has more to say. Their script appears acutely aware of the inequalities that plague our country and that there's some fundamental unfairness at work where some people are scraping together coupons while the corporations that hand them out are busy making sure that everyone remains so poor that they have no choice but to clip coupons. If the world is corrupt, then how can anything be deemed illegitimate?
That logic is what carries the film's protagonists, but not the film itself, which quickly succumbs to its pink-collar crime antics that are supposed to be both weightless and also an indictment of capitalism. You can't have it both ways, and so Queenpins often opts for lighthearted, victimless fun that makes you wonder what the stakes are beyond the titular queenpins' inevitable downfall.advertising
Based on a true story, the film follows Connie Kaminski (Kristen Bell) and JoJo Johnson (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), best friends and devoted coupon clippers. When Connie discovers that special coupons exist as make-goods from the manufacturer that offer massive discounts and freebies, they decide to go straight to the source for the coupons and decide to sell them to other fiscally-conscious shoppers, thus creating a discount for their customers and profits in the millions for them.
However, this puts them on the radar of determined loss-prevention officer Ken Miller (Paul Walter Hauser), who wants to get to the bottom of these coupons flooding the market. He teams with Postal Inspector Simon Kilmurry (Vince Vaughn) while Connie and JoJo try to keep their scam going by buying expensive items like luxury cars and guns to try and clean money they believe is dirty.advertising Image via STXfilms
RELATED: Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste Get Rich With a Coupon Scam in First Trailer for 'Queenpins' At its best, Queenpins feels like a cute cousin of the far superior Hustlers where women who are often taken advantage of by the system find a way to fight back through fraud even though the deck is inevitably rigged against them.
However, whereas Hustlers wasn't afraid of the darkness of its subject matter, Queenpins is determined to keep its criminality as light and frivolous as possible. Connie and JoJo may be scamming, but they're scamming corporations, which makes them heroes. And they're not in it for greed; Connie wants to use the money to pay off her IVF loans and go through another round of IVF because she wants a baby so badly even though her husband (Joel McHale) is an absolute jerk and holds their financial debt against her for doing so many rounds of IVF as if wanting a baby were a frivolous purchase.
In this framework, Queenpins is an underdog story, and we root for Connie and JoJo even though the film opens with Connie's house getting raided so we know she doesn't really get away with it.advertising
This kind of ambivalence--they get their comeuppance but they don't really deserve it because they're just scamming corporations out of coupons--saps the film of any energy it may have because it doesn't seem to know where its momentum is headed beyond the next beat of the scam. There's no thematic or emotional arc here, which makes the whole film feel tonally off, like a flavorless confection. The film is constantly grazing up against interesting ideas, but then it opts for the easy laugh like when Ken ends up soiling himself in a car because he's missed his morning bathroom window.Image via STX
Everything Queenpins attempts just feels a little stale because Gaudet and Pullapilly never seem willing to push past the quirky trappings of the story.
It's the kind of narrative that ultimately comes off as playing better as a fun news story you pass around to your friends on social media than as a fully-developed feature because there's no depth here, and perhaps that would be excusable if the film were funnier, but it's not particularly comic either. It just kind of floats on with some scattered bright points, but nothing that would make this a memorable caper.advertising
Rating: C- Queenpins opens in theaters on September 10th.Why 'Saw III' Cuts Deeper Than the Rest of the Franchise
Oh yes, there will be family drama.Related TopicsAbout The AuthorMatt Goldberg (15048 Articles Published)
Matt Goldberg has been an editor with Collider since 2007.
As the site's Chief Film Critic, he has authored hundreds of reviews and covered major film festivals including the Toronto International Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival.
He resides in Atlanta with his wife and their dog Jack.More From Matt Goldbergadvertising