One Line Review: Queenpins is ol’ school fraud comedy movie that is totally worth the shot.
How is it possible that in the opening scene the ordinary housewife Connie Kaminski (Kristen Bell) is lifted from her bed at night by armed cops? Connie likes to explain this herself in a voice-over, in a flashback that takes up most of the running time of the film. Together with her neighbor JoJo Johnson (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), she manages to earn tens of millions of dollars through all kinds of illegal tricks with coupons.
When Ken Miller (Paul Walter Hauser), the determined “loss prevention employee” of a major supermarket chain, tracks down the duo, it seems only a matter of time before they get caught. Hauser just has to convince the authorities. But the coupons, or discount coupons, are not really taken seriously by anyone. The FBI is not interested and brush him off as much as possible. Because the (false) receipts are also sent through the mail, federal agent Simon Kilmurry (Vince Vaughn) of the US Postal Service (or the US Postal Service) will intervene in the case.
Directors Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly are a married couple who, after several documentaries, stumbled upon the original true story of major coupon fraud. In 2013, three women from Phoenix, Arizona were sentenced to prison terms for large-scale fraud with those coupons. Gaudet and Pullapilly saw the comedic potential of the coupons’ limited value in itself and the huge sums of money they earned and decided to turn it into a humorous film. “Queenpins” is a pun on “Kingpin”, a term often used for the leader of a criminal organization (and the nickname of Marvel villain Wilson Fisk). The film is also very loosely based on the facts, with these characters and most of the events being made up by the makers.
The character that stimulates the film
The main character is Connie Kaminski, an Olympic racewalker who lives in Phoenix with her husband Rick (Joel McHale). Their marriage has remained childless and their relationship is not going smoothly, partly because Rick often has to travel as an inspector at the tax authorities. Connie has now set up the nursery as a stock for the things she buys with coupons. She’s actually very unhappy, but she picks herself up and gets a kick out of collecting coupons and saving money. You could say that she makes a sport of getting as much discount as possible on her purchases. Something that the makers do not accidentally link to her fanatical dedication to her Olympic career. Meanwhile, her neighbor and best friend JoJo tries to get famous with YouTube videos about saving money. She lives with her mother (Greta Oglesby) again after falling victim to identity theft. Together they become more and more captivated by the possibilities of earning money with coupons.
The Ol School drama pattern continues
‘Queenpins’ once again highlights another side of the well-known “buddy” pattern that we know so well from countless films. Two best friends go through fire for each other to get the best out of life. Despite all the talent in front of and behind the camera and the best intentions, it just doesn’t manage to become more than a lightly entertaining pastime. This is mainly due to the unbalanced tone. For example, the sad circumstance of Connie’s childlessness gets bogged down in a farce involving an anonymous (and expensive) sperm donor at a clinic—all unbeknownst to Rick, by the way. The events intended to be humorous do not always arrive either. One moment the makers use witticism and irony as a means and the next the film degrades to peasant underpants’ fun. The low point is the scene in which Miller and Kilmurry are in a car during observation and the former cannot control his bowels and has to defecate. The cast has many familiar faces from comedy TV series or movies, but despite the acting of the radiant Bell and Howell-Baptiste, the film just doesn’t really want to get off the ground.
What exactly is the message from the makers? It’s clear that Gaudet and Pullapilly really consider their protagonists to be heroines, and they’re just making clever use of a corrupt system. The comparison of their actions with Robin Hood, versus the big companies that manufacture the consumer goods, is stark. Discussions about the failing American judicial system are certainly possible, but the tone of the criminal activity remains light-hearted at all times. For an indictment of the ‘system’, the film isn’t biting or sarcastic enough. Another short endnote: In the same month the film was released (September 2021), a Virginia woman was sentenced to 12 years in prison for coupon fraud. She probably wouldn’t have found that very funny.