Eric D. Snider

Kinky Boots

"Kinky Boots" is a perfectly harmless little comedy that is exactly like the other perfectly harmless little comedies of its genre, right down to the last plot point. I can't think of any reason for you to see it, but I can't think of any reason not to, either.

In the English town of Northampton is a shoe factory that has been run by the Price family for generations, with a team of loyal employees cranking out high-quality footwear with love and pride. Upon the death of Mr. Price, his eldest son, Charlie (Joel Edgerton), must return from London -- where he had plans to abandon the shoe business and study marketing -- and keep the factory from going under, lest all those dedicated cobblers be out of work.

You may remember this plot from "Tommy Boy," but that's not the film it most closely resembles. It's more like "The Full Monty" or "Calendar Girls," movies where people band together and do something odd for a good cause. In "Kinky Boots," Charlie meets a drag queen named Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who turns him onto an unfilled niche in the shoe market: No one's making high-heeled boots for men. They only make them for women, with a woman's weight and general carriage taken into consideration in the design, so when female impersonators try to wear them, they tend to break the heels off accidentally.

Are there enough drag queens, transvestites and cross-dressers in England to support a line of boots made just for them? That is the 64,000-pound question facing Charlie, but with Lola on board as a designer, he plunges ahead. His fiancee, Nicola (Jemima Rooper), doesn't understand him or his factory; luckily, one of the employees he had to lay off, Lauren (Sarah Jane Potts), does.

Don't worry about Charlie dumping Nicola, though. That would make him a bad guy. The movie avoids shades of gray by having Nicola cheat on him, thus paving the way for her to depart and Lauren to take her place. And if you consider any of that information a "spoiler," you have apparently never seen a movie before.

I think you'd be the film's target audience, actually. With generically pleasant direction by first-timer Julian Jarrold and a script by Tim Firth (who wrote the identical "Calendar Girls") and Geoff Deane, "Kinky Boots" counts on its viewers being delighted by the most predictable of developments. Will the staunch anti-drag-queen shoemaker eventually be won over by Lola? Will the make-us-or-break-us fashion show aaaaaalmost fail before Lola shows up at the last minute and saves the day? Tune in and find out! Or don't.

Grade: C+

Rated PG-13, some naughtiness, a little profanity

1 hr., 47 min.

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