Let’s cut to the Chevy Chase here, Paul Walter Hauser is hysterically funny in Queenpins.
I’m sure many may turn up their noses at Queenpins, the new movie starring Kristen Bell. It’s not exactly high brow, as any couponing, down on your luck comedy can be. The beginning doesn’t help matters. It’s a contrived setup designed to get you to care about the main characters with all-out straight manipulation for the viewer to connect with. They also run and take a full Olympic dash to establish a cardboard cutout villain for the viewer to oppose. However, I slowly began to enjoy the story, the chemistry between the actors, and the comic turn by Paul Walter Hauser.
Bell stars as Connie Kaminski, a housewife who has immersed herself in the world of couponing. Her husband, Rick (a weasely Joel McHale), and she had drifted apart. They spent their life savings on fertility treatments and have no baby to show for it. He takes more work trips because he has begun to resent her for the money they spent. Even worse, he verbalizes it. For this reason, she has had enough. She hatches a scheme with her best friend, Jo Jo (Barry‘s Kirby Howell-Baptiste).
There are thousands of coupon clippers out there looking for a great deal. Connie and Jo Jo come up with a plan to sell coupons for free items at half price. A great idea. I mean, who hasn’t wondered why a 40-pack of toilet paper costs more than a tank of gas? And at half price? The only thing is it’s highly illegal. This pays a factory worker in Mexico, Alejandro (Frederick Rodriguez), to print out the golden tickets. Free tomatoes, tide pods, and tampons. You name it, they’ve got it. He has a baby on the way. So he sends the processed coupons back to the girls who sell them quickly to create a 40 million dollar windfall.
Queenpins was directed and written by Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly, the team behind Beneath the Harvest Sky. While the beginning was overdone and several moments through the film can feel manufactured (for instance, a scene with Baptiste celebrating outside her house doesn’t work), the story has a natural, engaging quality. The type of storytelling that has the viewer invested in rooting for someone getting away with millions.
Yet, for a script that’s booby-trapped with countless tropes and a major plot flaw (if the used coupons are being recycled, when they are scanned, they automatically become invalidated when reused) it’s the performances and the chemistry between the acting pairs that keep the film amusing, fun, and engaging. Bell and an unusually droll, even deadpan Baptiste, make for delightful naive
kingpins queenpins. Their overall optimism and diving headfirst into new, criminal acts is infectious.
Perhaps the best duo is Paul Walter Hauser and Vince Vaughn. They play an unlikely tag team after Hauser, a prevention office for a chain of grocery stores named Ken Miller, is alerted to thousands of unaccounted-for coupons popping up all over the southwest. Vaughn plays Simon, a U.S. Postal Agent, investigating the mail fraud. Their chemistry is, at its lowest, constantly amusing, and at its best, hysterical. Their interaction leads to a line delivered by Hauser that was so perfect, it had me laughing and snorting for several minutes (my wife has decided to find that adorable).
With the always dependable Kristen Bell and the breakout turn by Paul Walter Hauser, “Let’s cut to the Chevy Chase here.” Queenpins isn’t a perfect comedy. But it has enough going on to be an enjoyable one. If you have an immature sense of humor, it will be more effective than most.