Length: 110 minutes
Directors: Aron Gaudet, Gita Pullapilly
Writers: Aron Gaudet, Gita Pullapilly
Cast: Kristen Bell, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Paul Walter Hauser, Bebe Rexha, Vince Vaughn
In theatres from 9 September (Singapore)
2 out of 5 stars
Queenpins, based on a true story, is about two women who build and operate a multi-million dollar coupon fraud scheme, and the guys trying to catch them. Regardless of how much of this so-called crime comedy was actually based on real life, however, the movie fares very poorly as a piece of entertainment.
Connie (Kristen Bell) loves redeeming coupons so much that she's turned her home into a grocery warehouse of sorts. Together with her best friend Jojo (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), a struggling saleswoman, they concoct a criminal operation that involves stealing excess coupons for free items from a printing plant that prints coupons for all sorts of companies. They then profit by selling the coupons to unsuspecting customers for less than the retail value of the products that can be redeemed in stores.
The whole premise of this illegal enterprise is quite implausible, but more on that later.
The concept had potential on paper, and frankly, the cast did their best with a terrible, unfunny script.
Paul Walter Hauser, who also appeared earlier this year in Cruella as Horace, is actually a funny actor, and he's the only one who comes close to making his character, Ken, a supermarket employee slash law enforcer-wannabe, almost funny. That's saying something, because one of the most egregiously terrible gags in the movie involves him shitting his pants in a car, which is plumbed for laughs across multiple scenes. No, really, I'm not kidding.
Terrible jokes aside, the movie could have mined the characters to provide more emotional depth. Connie, whose marriage and finances are in trouble after several costly, failed in vitro fertilisation treatments, could have been written with more dramatic conflict as she grieves over the miscarriage of her baby. Ken has an arc that could have been interesting: he starts off as a penny-pinching, by-the-book meanie who turns into someone who's willing to bend the rules for customers at the expense of his employer. But the screenplay's portrayal of these characters is poorly executed.
The whole plot is so outrageously stupid that you'll be constantly stunned in disbelief. I don't mean to spoil the movie, but in order to tell you how stupid the story is, I need to make a List Of Implausible Plot Points (which pretty much comprise the entire plot). Hence, beware of spoilers henceforth.
Here goes the List:
The website that Connie and Jojo use to anonymously sell their illegal coupons literally features Connie's favourite personal slogan which she is always telling the supermarket cashier: "Watch out for the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves." Nothing traceable there, apparently.
Jojo freely advertises the illegal coupons in YouTube videos where she is totally identifiable by face.
They somehow team up with a hacker who not only stole Jojo’s identity years ago, but ruined her life, and who Jojo obviously hates and mistrusts.
To launder their money, they use a business that sells cosmetic products for Black women as a front for their illegal revenue. They pass off Connie, a very white woman, as the CEO of this business that caters to Black women.
Even though they have a putative business to launder money with, Connie and Jojo go to elaborate lengths to clean their money by buying lots of big-ticket items and then selling them. The hacker girl tells them that the cosmetics company automatically cleans all their money, so they don't have to go to all that trouble. But girl, there is a lot more to money laundering than that!
They walk up to a gun seller at a gun fair and buy a s**tload of assault rifles with their dirty money, just like that. Just two middle-aged women buying a truckload of assault rifles, nothing suspicious at all.
I think you kinda get the idea at this point. Not surprisingly, there is never much doubt that the law enforcers pursuing Connie and Jojo will catch them eventually.
In an era where we have Breaking Bad, Ozark and Good Girls on TV – all very good, sophisticated dramas about ordinary people who turn to crime and money laundering – there is absolutely no excuse that a movie in this genre possesses the calibre of the likes of Queenpins. Good Girls, especially, is an obvious point of comparison, being also a female-led crime dramedy. Sadly, Queenpins is but a very pale imitation of Good Girls.
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