New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)
In ‘Queenpins,’ a kitchen sink full of ideas
The timing was perfect. The very moment I sat down to write about “Queenpins,” the inspired-by-actual-events tale of a coupon scheme gone awry, a tantalizing coupon popped up on my screen.
It offered 20 percent off, for a popular brand of socks. I didn’t need socks. But 20 percent? Maybe I did need socks? I suddenly recalled what Ken, the hapless “loss prevention officer” played by a terrific Paul Walter Hauser, said in the film about why people use coupons: It’s not usually because they need the stuff. It’s the buzz — the “coupon high” they get when they score a deal.
This alone could have made the germ of a movie: the psychology of discount shopping. But like many themes here, it gets muddled into a confusing — though often highly entertaining — pastiche of ideas and styles. Writer-directors Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly offer up a commentary on the value of work. There’s a critique of capitalism, and an intriguing buddy relationship between two women with very different lives but shared goals.
The shame is that an excellent cast could have been better served. Aside from Hauser, we have the appealing duo of Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste as the coupon criminals. Bell is an expert at using her endlessly perky exterior to hide devious intentions, and as for Howell-Baptiste, somehow she makes us root for her no matter what she’s doing — like negotiating a gun sale to a possible right-wing militia.
“Queenpins,” an STX Entertainment release in select theaters Friday and on Paramount+ on Sept. 30, has been rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America “for language throughout.” Running time: 110 minutes.