“Queenpins” might have been a snappy little comedy had it lost 20 minutes and found a point beyond glorifying grand larceny. Erasing the lead character’s smug-perky narration wouldn’t have hurt, either.
Set mainly in suburban Phoenix, Ariz. — with pit stops in other dehydrated locations — the movie smiles on Connie (Kristen Bell), a cash-strapped coupon cutter whose bland good cheer masks a desperate longing for a child.
“You’re trying to replace a baby with coupons,” her husband (Joel McHale), a withdrawn I.R.S. agent, accurately observes before largely disappearing from the story. Connie’s true partner, though, is JoJo (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), a bubbly neighbor and vlogger looking for a break. Together, they hatch a scheme to steal coupons from a printing facility in Mexico and sell them on YouTube. What could possibly go wrong?
Written and directed by the husband-and-wife team of Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly, “Queenpins,” inspired by actual events, can’t decide if its pink-collar criminals are fools or geniuses. Neither can the two men on their trail: a businesslike postal inspector (Vince Vaughn, starved for decent lines) and the movie’s true hero, Ken Miller (an excellent Paul Walter Hauser), an officious loss-prevention officer for a supermarket chain. Ken’s longing for respect makes him a ridiculous, even pathetic figure; but he has a dogged, shabby sense of honor that the film views as a joke and repeatedly undermines.
Making no secret of where its sympathies lie, “Queenpins” scampers toward its ludicrous conclusion with less concern for logic than for ensuring that everyone gets what he or she wants. With the possible exception of the audience.
Rated R for iffy language and icky behavior. Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes. In theaters and on Paramount+.
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