Review by Sean Boelman
It’s pretty clear that Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly wanted Queenpins to cash in on the popularity of such blue-collar crime comedies as Hustlers, but in just copying the formula, they lost sight of the things that could have made it enjoyable. The result is a largely laughless affair despite a talented cast putting in their best efforts.
The film follows a housewife and her best friend as they get wrapped up in an unexpectedly lucrative scheme selling illegitimate coupons. It’s a story that sounds (and is) ridiculous, but the problem is that the movie too often takes itself far too seriously rather than embracing the inherent absurdity of the situation.
There are really two storylines going on here, and they are not created equal. More prominent is that of the two women trying to get rich quickly, and this is the generic portion. There are some compelling aspects to this story, but it is overly familiar. On the other hand, the story of the dysfunctional duo trying to hunt them down is much more enjoyable, but receives less of the focus.
Paul Walter Hauser and Vince Vaughn absolutely make this movie as a corporate loss prevention officer and postal inspector investigating the scam. The chemistry they have together is truly wonderful, with a very natural comedic rhythm between them that clearly benefited from a lot of improvisation (especially from Vaughn).
On the other hand, Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste’s performances are much more forgettable. Although they are completely believable as friends, they don’t do much in terms of making their characters feel unique. Howell-Baptiste gets a few genuinely fun moments, but they aren’t enough to make it feel any less generic.
Additionally, the character development leaves something to be desired. The irony of the protagonist’s husband being an IRS auditor is occasionally joked about, as is the fact that she is a former Olympian, but apart from that, we don’t get much insight into her personal life. And every other character is even less developed.
The film is also quite generic from a technical standpoint. Although there are a few scenes that are fun, the fundamental flaw here is that it seems to be misguided from a directorial standpoint. It’s almost as if Gaudet and Pullapilly wanted the humor to come out of the irony of seeing something so goofy play out with a mostly straight face,
Queenpins is definitely watchable, but it’s a disappointment all-around because of the level of talent that was involved with it. It’s clearly banking on the success of many better movies that came before it, and it pales in comparison to their image.
Queenpins is now in theaters and hits Paramount+ on September 30.