June 8, 2006

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Kinky Boots (PG-13)
Shiny, colorful footwear for transvestites might be the only thing that can save a Northampton (the one in Great Britain) shoe factory in Kinky Boots, a sweet romance.

The romance is not just of the guy-hearts-girl variety but also of the town-saves-jobs variety and the hand-crafted-goods-can-compete-with-global-economy-cheapies. All of this is portrayed with great kindness and warmth and quite a bit of preciousness. You halfway expect one of the old women of Northhampton to whip out a few drag queen Hummels.

Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton) is the & Sons part of Price & Sons, shoemakers in Northampton. When Charlie’s dad dies, he becomes the Mr. Price that has to run the show, but he quickly finds there isn’t much business to run. Faced with a spate of firings and the possibility of having to close the factory and put even more people out of work, Price heads to London to attempt to find some new customers. While there, fate introduces him to Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a big sassy black drag queen. He helps her escape some would-be attackers and then helps her repair her red stiletto boots, which, she complains, are always falling apart. Later, Charlie gets an idea: women’s shoes for men. He brings Lola to Northampton to help him and a spunky factory employee named Lauren (Sarah-Jane Potts) design the boots (specially designed to hold a man’s weight). Charlie’s hope: if he can tap into this niche market, he can save the factory and keep his family’s tradition going.

Kinky Boots is going for that British-hard-times tone featured in films like Brassed Off and The Full Monty but with a softer Calendar Girls feel. I would say it goes even softer than that Granny’s-in-the-buff picture because Calender Girls got a bit of acting muscle from Helen Mirren and Julie Walters. Kinky Boots touches on real issues — old economy workers displaced by new economy realities — but does so in a way so gentle you never feel Charlie’s turmoil or the sting of layoffs. Like weak tea, Kinky Boots passes the time but is unspectacular. C


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