Kinky Boots

2006, Movie, NR, 107 mins

Review

KINKY BOOTS
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A BBC documentary series about failing businesses might seem an unlikely place to find light laughs, but an episode of Trouble at the Top featuring a "kinky-boot factory" is what inspired Julian Jarrold's formulaic heart-warmer about an old-fashioned, family-owned shoe factory rescued from bankruptcy by the fetish-footwear needs of drag queens. Charlie Price (Australian actor Joel Edgerton) has been groomed since childhood to take over the family's Northampton manufacturing business, though everyone but his doting dad (Robert Pugh), who thrills to the smell of shoe leather in the morning, knows the truth: The cobbling gene has skipped a generation. Charlie is set to flee to London with his frighteningly ambitious fiancee, Nicola (Jemima Rooper), when his father dies suddenly. The escape plan is put on hold while Charlie sorts things out at the factory; unfortunately that sorting would be better suited to someone with twice his business acumen and 10 times his enthusiasm for footwear. Charlie fires 15 employees — including spunky Lauren (Sarah-Jane Potts), who, on her way out the door, dresses him down with a lecture on niche marketing — and then unloads some overstock on a London retailer. But while out drowning his sorrows in drink, he crosses paths with his unlikely angel, Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor). A brawny cross-dresser who owns and headlines at a Soho cabaret presided over by the glacial gaze of Marlene Dietrich, Lola has endless trouble finding thigh-high stiletto boots that will stand up to the weight of a former middleweight boxer like him/herself. Demand, meet supply. Charlie rehires Lauren and, after some false starts, begins mapping out a sample line based on Lola's sexy designs. The catch is that to get the new collection ready in time for the upcoming Milan footwear show, Charlie's entire conservative workforce has to get behind making top-quality "porn-wear for transsexuals," as the horrified Nicola dubs Charlie's niche market. Yet another product of the "Stiff Upper Brit" school of triumph-of-the-underdog comedies spawned by THE FULL MONTY (1997), this good-natured comedy hits all the notes — from homophobes learning the error of their ways to apple-cheeked old dears who aren't as naive as certain strapping lads in ladies' togs would presume — and it keeps its naughtiness firmly within PG-13 range. Ejiofor's polished, energetic performance — including several song-and-dance numbers — enlivens what's basically comfort food in movie form, but sometimes comfort food is exactly what the doctor ordered. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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