[Screen It]


(2021) (Kristen Bell, Kirby Howell-Baptiste) (R)

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Comedy: Two friends enjoy the money that selling illegally obtained store coupons brings them, unaware that officials are closing in on them and their fraudulent scheme.

Connie Kaminski (KRISTEN BELL) is a three-time Olympic gold medalist in speed walking whose current obsession with using coupons in her Phoenix suburb is driving her IRS agent husband, Rick (JOEL McHALE), crazy. With their marriage strained and him away for weeks at a time working, Connie spends most of her time with her neighbor-friend, JoJo Johnson (KIRBY HOWELL-BAPTISTE), who lives with her mother, Mama Josie (GRETA OGLESBY). She's likewise into coupons when not trying to sell her cosmetic wares and flirting with Earl (DAYO OKENIYI), her mail carrier.

When Connie learns that companies will send coupons for free products in response to complaint letters, she begins a spree of such letter writing, and eventually convinces JoJo that they can make money selling such coupons if they can get their hands on enough of them. That comes to fruition when they travel to Mexico and convince Alejandro (FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ) and his wife, Rosa (ILIA PAULINO), to supply them with coupons from the manufacturing and redemption center where they work.

Their efforts quickly pay off, especially with the help of cybersecurity whiz Tempe Tina (BEBE REXHA) who teaches them the tricks of the trade of dealing with large sums of money. But the overuse of coupons eventually draws the overzealous attention of Ken Miller (PAUL WALTER HAUSER), a grocery chain's loss prevention officer who alerts the feds about the fraud. That eventually results in U.S. Postal Service Inspector Simon Kilmurry (VINCE VAUGHN) being on the case. As he and Ken work to find out who's responsible, Connie and Jojo expand their criminal operation, unaware of what's coming their way.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10

I'll often do research on a film's storyline or subject matter if I'm not overly familiar with it, just to gauge how prevalent or not such matters might be out in the real world. Granted, I wouldn't bother doing something like that for "Sharknado" (feeling fairly confident that such a combo isn't a common occurrence), but for something like the coupon fraud featured in "Queenpins," I had to do a little investigating.

And what I dug up is that it's far more common than I imagined, although, considering the wild things that end up in my email spam folder, I guess I shouldn't be that surprised. Even so, it's somewhat shocking that industry estimates put the retail losses for such fraud at around $100 million annually.

That's a lot of fake coupons, and just one case of that is what inspired co-writer/directors Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly to come up with their fact is stranger than fiction comedic offering. It revolves around best friends Connie Kaminiski (Kristen Bell) and JoJo Johnson (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) who enjoy the perks of using coupons in their Phoenix suburb, something that's lost on the former's husband (Joel McHale) and the latter's mother (Greta Oglesby).

When Connie learns that complaint letters can earn coupons for completely free products, her opportunistic mind turns that into a business opportunity. If she and JoJo can get their hands on enough of those coupons, they could sell them to other savvy shoppers and make a tidy profit.

They eventually find a source of them from a married couple in Mexico who work at a coupon printing and redemption facility, and the ladies are soon off to the profit races. But their endeavor draws the attention of overzealous grocery chain loss prevention officer Ken Miller (Paul Walter Hauser) who eventually gets U.S. Postal Inspector Simon Kilmurry (Vince Vaughn) on the case to find the culprits.

Like someone who went on a random buying spree using coupons, the film is filled with a plethora of story elements that don't always work as cohesively as presumably intended. There's the female crime duo that manages to succeed despite but also because of themselves, both bumbling and hustling their way to success. And some of that includes breaking away from a loveless marriage while still dealing with the aftermath of a miscarriage sometime in the past.

The mismatched duo pairing of the strait-laced postal inspector and the passive-aggressive loss prevention officer often feels like it's operating in an entirely different movie, especially when it sort of lifts an emergency bathroom bit from "Bridesmaids." The Mexican couple is introduced fairly prominently but then pretty much disappear from the story, while the cybersecurity figure who plays on both sides of the law comes and goes.

And nearly everyone (save for Vaughn and McHale with their characters) purposefully overacts for comedic purposes. Viewer appreciation (or not) of that will depend on one's funny bone, but much of the material felt strained more often than not to me. That said, there are some funny moments, but not enough to warrant paying full price. I don't know if coupons are available for moviegoing, but if you can find a BOGO free one, that's probably the smartest way to go. Just don't try selling it. "Queenpins" rates as a 4.5 out of 10.

Reviewed September 7, 2021 / Posted September 10, 2021

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