Reel Reviews | Queenpins

by Tim Gordon

Two friends, at desperate states of desperation, concoct a complex coupon caper the likes rarely seen in this Horatio Alger rags-to-riches suburban tale in Queenpins.

There have been plenty of films that display what we commonly know as the “American Dream,” where if you work hard enough, you can be or do anything. While a strong vision and back-breaking work was once the pinnacle that many aspired, there are stories of those who seize an opportunity and explore a market that is so inconsequential that only the lucky few can experience success. Such is the story of Connie and JoJo.

Married to a boring husband, Rick (Joel McHale) who works as an IRS auditor, Connie (Kristen Bell) is the model of the typical suburban housewife. A former Olympic speedwalking champion, she spends most of her days collecting coupons and stockpiling all matter of foods and goods at home due to her savvy shopping prowess. Still reeling over her inability to have a child, she fills the void with her insatiable need to competitively coupon. Her best friend, JoJo (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) is an energetic salesperson who was forced to move back home to live with her outspoken and hilarious mother, Mama Josie (Greta Oglesby) due to the theft of her identity.

Soon her obsession will turn into her passion when Connie discovers that simply writing letters to companies will net her free coupons. She talks it over with JoJo and the two decide to combine forces to provide savings opportunities to other suburban housewives. After they discover the origin of a plant in Mexico that produces coupons, they recruit a husband-and-wife team at the factory to provide them excess coupons and the two are off and running.

As they are beginning the flood their community with excess coupons, their caper catches the eye of a local loss-and-theft manager, Ken (Paul Walter Hauser) who is competent at his job as he is needy, insecure, and basically rude. An unhappy and lonely man, Ken throws himself into this latest assignment to track down the perpetrators that are costing area business millions of dollars. Due to the nature of the crime, he can’t get anyone to take him seriously, as one hilarious scene at the local FBI office will attest.

As their enterprises grow, Connie and JoJo discover they have new problems. Faced with a quick infusion of cash, the two must figure out how to clean their stockpile of dirty money. As they explore ways to wash their ill-gotten gains, Ken enlists the help of a no-nonsense postal inspector, Simon (Vince Vaughn) to help him track down the perpetrators.

Kirby Howell-Baptiste and Kristen Bell star in a scene from the movie “Queenpins.” (CNS photo/STX Films)

Written and directed by the husband-and-wife team, Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly, this aspirational tale, based on a true story, is a serviceable film that expertly captures our fixation with shopping and making money but fails to address the huge emotional hole, and toll of those hungering for fast money. Gadet and Pullapilly’s story tries to paint these bored housewives as a product of being more than they are but fast money leads to an equally fast life behind bars . . . for most.

The performances overshadow the screenplay led by strong performances from the talented trio of Howell-Baptiste, Hauser, and Vaughn. Based on a true story of a $40 million dollar enterprise that caught many off-guard, this entertaining film is a rags-to-riches story that would make Alger proud. In addition, Queenpin also examines the underbelly of popular culture that glorifies fast cash at all costs.

Grade: C+