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Kinky Boots

Genre: Comedy
Rated: PG-13
Directed by
Julian Jarrold
Starring: Joel Edgerton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Linda Bassett, Leo Bill, Sarah-Jane Potts
Released by: Buena Vista Pictures

In Short: An uptight young businessman has to walk in a transvestite's shoes to save his family's footwear factory.

Light in the Loafers
These Boots Trip Over a Familiar Formula
By Duncan Birmingham

Young Charlie’s (Joel Edgerton) new life in London is cut short when his father passes away and he inherits the family footwear factory out in Northampton. Trying to fill his father’s shoes, Charlie quickly learns that the company is in terrible shape. With lay-offs and bankruptcy looming, a desperate Charlie makes a sales trip to London where he serendipitously meets a sassy drag queen (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who inspires him with an idea that just might save the factory.

Charlie’s plan to rescue his father's traditional company by tapping into the cross-dressing niche to manufacture sexy women's boots for dudes would seem totally contrived if the film’s opening didn’t assure us it was based on a true story. With Lola’s help, Charlie must convince his blue-collar employees to put petty bigotries aside and join him in this venture.

While “Kinky Boots” is treading familiar ground (a protagonist bucking the parochialism of small-town Britain to embark on an eccentric venture in order to save the jobs/ farm/ estate etc.) it is not without its charms. Looking like the U.K.’s own Conan O’Brien, Edgarton makes a charmingly flustered young boss. The cabaret-singing Lola is an oddly asexual and underwritten character saddled with the painful job of teaching Charlie and his co-workers the life lessons they need—all in time for the big Milan Shoe Fair, but Ejifor makes Lola sing—literally—and dazzles by embodying a character who’s both tough-as-nails and fragile as a school girl.

"Kinky Boots" never delves deep enough into its characters to make it feel anything but slight, and despite the potentially edgy subject matter, the story feels sanitized without even the cheekiness of say, "The Full Monty." Yet, fans of this mini-genre ("The Full Monty," "Brassed Off," "Calendar Girls," and even the just released "On A Clear Day") from across the pond will appreciate its warm whimsy and Ejiofor’s wonderful showcase performance.

(Published: 04/13/06)

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