Nothing worse than an expired coupon
Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” was my Number 1 choice as the Best Film of 2013 and my Number 2 choice of the Best of the Decade, because it knew about greed, money, sex, drugs, parties, and frivolity. It was examined in the director’s own mind on Jordan Belfort.
The same can’t be said with “Queenpins,” a crime comedy that channels on that film with its greed and money and “Hustlers” with its female leads. This time, instead of Jennifer Lopez or Constance Wu, they would have to be Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste (“Cruella,” “The Good Place”), who respectively have done better before, but play the leads so unlikable, you actually wish they got arrested for their crimes.
Bell plays a Gold Metal racewalker named Connie, whose recent miscarriage urges her to use coupons to buy the cereal, drinks, and paper towels she doesn’t need. In fact, her IRS agent husband (Joel McHale) constantly tells her to stop, but she can’t. Because she’s a winner and winners never give up.
How wouldn’t she be a winner? She’s willing to dumpster dive for a UPC code, and holds a shopping line to process her coupons from way over $100 to about $17.
While her husband’s away on business, she makes friends with the blogger Jojo (Howell-Baptiste), who also needs the fight the money game. After Connie writes a letter to a Wheaties company saying her cereal was stale, they send her a coupon, and she comes up with the idea of having Mexican factory workers steal the coupons and Connie and Jojo selling them to the public.
Then comes Paul Walter Hauser as Ken, a rude and awkward loss prevention officer, who is so committed to his job that he annoys the FBI, and Vince Vaughn as Simon, a determined U.S. Postal inspector, who helps him crack Connie and Jojo’s latest caper. And also Bebe Rexha as a computer hacker is required by the girls to help them keep the feds off the scent. She tells them not to immediately spend the big bucks on what they can’t afford. Oh, where was she when Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler made the stupid mistakes in “The House?”
And when the time comes for them to spend the money, they find out they have dirty money. So they have to buy Lamborghinis and sell them, in order to get clean money.
One scene that made me smile is when Simon criticizes Ken for crapping his pants in his car. It sounds flimsy and generic, but the way Vaughn reacts is pretty funny. In fact, Vaughn is the only genuinely likable actor in the film when he tries to be the more serious law enforcer, and doesn’t need a comic relief sidekick like Hauser. And trust me, he was funnier this year in “Cruella” than he was in this.
Why should we like Bell and Howell-Baptiste’s characters? They claim to be helping people save money, when they want to spend money for themselves. And when they go to a fertility clinic, Bell decides to spend money on an Olympic champion’s sperm, instead of her husband’s. Mother of the year: an Olympic champ wanting her offspring to be a winner. Greg Kinnear played a motivational speaker who knew the difference between winners and losers in “Little Miss Sunshine,” but that character and that masterpiece both had their hearts in the right place.
“Queenpins” was written and directed by collaborators Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly, both behind “Beneath the Harvest Sky.” If they’re trying to jumpstart their movie careers with big names, they need to make a much better effort than they did with this expired coupon.
In Select Cinemark Locations This Friday
Streaming on Paramount+ 9/30