The Chronicle



former Olympic speed walker and a would-be social media influencer make a fortune out of counterfei­t supermarke­t coupons in this Paramount+ crime caper.

As a premise, it’s a little bit funny, and a little bit tragic. The trouble with Queenpins is it doesn’t fully commit in either direction.

In contrast to, say, the take-no-prisoners approach of Margot Robbie’s I, Tonya, directors Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly opt for a disappoint­ingly conservati­ve treatment of a story inspired by real events.

This is not black comedy so much as beige. The filmmakers aren’t sure whether they want to laugh at, or with, their protagonis­ts.

Thankfully, Kristen Bell and Kirby HowellBapt­iste don’t wait around to find out. It’s a winning partnershi­p. By embracing their respective characters without reservatio­n, the two actors damn near carry the film. Connie Kaminski (Bell) and JoJo Johnson (Howell-Baptise) are neighbours and best friends.

Kaminski has retired from a sport no one takes seriously to start a family. But, after a series of miscarriag­es and several failed rounds of IVF treatments, she has begun to fill her empty nursery with stockpiles of groceries.

JoJo, an aspiring social media celebrity, is similarly bargain-driven. They spend their days happily collecting discount coupons – until a stale box of cereal opens Kaminski’s eyes to a whole new level of opportunit­y.

This leads to an unlikely partnershi­p with a Mexican couple who work in a warehouse that prints discount coupons, for which they are paid well below the minimum wage.

The filmmakers don’t have to work hard to sell what happens next as a victimless crime.

But the sheer scale of Kaminski and Johnson’s operation soon brings them to the attention of a dogged auditor (Paul Walter Hauser as a very similar character to the one he played in Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell, this time for laughs).

Vince Vaughn partners with Hauser in the straight man role of a postal service investigat­or.

While the concept for this outrageous comedy is promising and Gaudet and Pullapilly have assembled a solid cast, its narrative trajectory is surprising­ly flat. Queenpins might have worked better it if had treated its characters with a bit more respect. Its assembly-line mentality undercuts the tragi-comedy of the set-up.

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