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Kinky Boots

By Margaret M. Rossman, Crimson Staff Writer

Directed by Julian Jarrold

Buena Vista Pictures

3 stars

Charlie Price’s first attempt to craft boots for the flamboyant transvestite Lola in the film “Kinky Boots” is a metaphor for the film itself—nice, comfortable, pretty in theory, but when it comes down to it, lacking in style.

Producer Nick Barton must have quite the affinity for the stereotypical United Kingdom feel-good comedy, as he follows up 2003’s “Calendar Girls”—pretty much the female “Full Monty”—with another story of big-city lifestyles invading small-town, old-fashioned values. While the formula suceeds by tugging a few heart strings, the humor doesn’t live up to its British roots.

Price, played by the charmingly bumbling Joel Edgerton (“Star Wars: Episode III”), had just left Northampton for the bright lights of London with his uptight girlfriend when he is brought back home to take over the family shoe factory after his father’s unexpected death—cue the pressure to live up to the expectations of dad’s ghost. As the business sinks into financial problems, Price unexpectedly meets Lola and soon is inspired to make sexy boots with heels that won’t break under the weight of the man. Thus a truly odd couple attempts to save Price & Sons, and it’s far too easy to guess what happens when Lola invades Northampton.

What might save “Kinky Boots” from total obscurity is the prolific yet often ignored actor Chiwetel Ejiofor. Ejiofor has been critically acclaimed for his work in “Dirty Pretty Things,” but then relatively unnoticed for his work in “Love Actually,” and recently, “Inside Man.” As Lola, born Simon, he not only convincingly portrays a person struggling with his identity and the discrimination of others, but also, shines as a cabaret singer and ultimate performer.

Ejiofor’s voice and stage presence makes Lola’s moments on stage entrancing. Director Julian Jarrold clearly wants Lola’s public persona to be highlighted, as we see full versions of several pieces, including “Whatever Lola Wants.” If “Dirty Pretty Things” couldn’t bump Ejiofor to A-list, maybe this display of his acting range and talent will finally give him that extra push.

While the screenplay is relatively bland and predictably feel-good, it does have a few highlights. After Price makes the aforementioned boots, Lola replies, “Please, God, tell me I have not inspired something burgundy.” And the cutest moment, already spoiled in the trailer, is when the old woman renting a room to Lola asks him if he is a man. When Lola replies in the affirmative, the woman replies, “Ah, that’s fine, just so I know how to leave the toilet seat. I’ll get some biscuits.”

Mostly, however, we are treated to a hammered-into-our-heads, play-by-play, of implicit connections—Lola equals the misfit shoes, or Charlie equals Lola because he also feels out of place, and so on. Every step of the plot is already marked firmly on the ground.

A solid cast might keep “Kinky Boots” kicking, but too many lackluster lines force it to stumble and fall.

Bottom Line: If you are an Ejiofor/hard-core “Love Actually” fan, don’t miss it. Otherwise, “Kinky Boots” is only suitable as a brief pick-me-up on a rainy day.

—Reviewer Margaret M. Rossman can be reached at rossman@fas.harvard.edu.

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