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Kinky Boots

Kinky Boots

claims a real life source of inspiration for its story of a young man who discovers a clever way of saving his family's shoe business. Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton, the young Uncle Owen from

Star Wars

) would like to slip out of his family's shoe business. But when his father passes away and the factory the Prices have owned for generations faces an impending shutdown, Charlie suddenly feels a responsibility to all the people who've worked for his family over the years. Unfortunately, the expensive, high-end and rather dull product they manufacture is no longer popular. That's when Charlie hits upon the idea of a 'niche' market. A chance encounter with Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor, the wonderful actor from

Dirty Pretty Things

), a flamboyant transvestite cabaret star, makes Charlie aware of the need for feminine footwear for men, and 'kinky boots' in particular. But Charlie will need Lola's design savvy if he's to make shoes that are sexy rather than practical.

Kinky Boots falls into the British formula of feel-good, battling-the-odds, triumph-of-the-little-guy mold of The Full Monty , Billy Elliott and Calendar Girls . It also intersects with the cross-dressing feel-good formula in which we learn life lessons'generally from men in skirts'about accepting people for who they are. The prime examples of this sub-genre being La Cage Aux Folles and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert . (Americans tried and failed to duplicate this formula with To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar .) So no matter how you look at it, Kinky Boots is covering familiar ground. Yet director Julian Jarrold, and writers Tim Firth and Nick Barton manage to deliver the familiar with charm and a certain sense of British professionalism. All the parts are in place and working smoothly as this tale about rebirth'both of the main character Charlie and his family's factory'plays out.

The film succeeds mainly on the appeal of its cast. Edgerton makes Charlie a likeable if somewhat directionless young man that we want to see succeed. Ejiofor makes Lola a larger than life character that must scale back in order to work with Charlie in his conservative North Hampton town. But Ejiofor doesn't quite get under the skin of Lola in the way that Cillian Murphy did with the cross-dressing Kitten in Breakfast on Pluto . Plus, despite the glamorous, sexy clothes and talk of sex, Lola is a rather asexual being. But then that's what often happens to such characters in order to make them more palatable to mainstream audiences.

Kinky Boots (rated PG-13 for thematic material involving sexuality and some language) serves up the expected encounters between Lola and the factory workers, which result in everyone becoming one big happy family. Charlie has a fianc?e who is predictably unsympathetic to his goals but not to fear there is a female factory worker waiting in the wings with love and support. And there are the expected drag queen musical numbers designed to make you want to sing along. In other words, there are no surprises to be found in these Kinky Boots but a good time may still be had in this well-worn, comfy formula.

Companion viewing: Pricilla Queen of the Desert, 20 Centimeters, Dirty Pretty Things -----

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