COUPON CAPER’S LAUGHS COME AT DISCOUNT
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.