Those working-class Brits sure are sassy. Like The Full Monty and Calendar Girls, Kinky Boots belongs to that distinctive British movie genre in which blokes and birds get their freak on for the sake of preserving their endangered blue-collar vibe. Sure, the flick is formulaic, but it is nevertheless a fun and entertaining diversion.
Our tale involves poor Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton), who inherits his family's Price & Sons shoe factory when his father, a dedicated shoemaker, dies. The sudden upheaval puts a strain on Charlie's personal life; his fiancée, Nicola (Jemima Rooper), is none too pleased that the couple will have to put the brakes on their plan to leave the grim working-class town of Northampton so that Charlie can pursue a career in marketing. Still, Charlie feels obligated to give the factory his best shot, especially after he discovers the business is in trouble and consequently is forced to fire 15 longtime employees.
That's when one soon-to-be former factory worker, Lauren (Sarah-Jane Potts), tells Charlie that perhaps the problem isn't the workforce, but rather the work product. If the old-fashioned shoes being made by Price & Sons aren't selling, why not try something else?
Some time later, Charlie happens to meet a brash drag queen named Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor). When Lola complains that the women's shoes he wears always break because they were not made to accommodate a man's weight, the figurative light bulb goes on in Charlie's mind. Tapping his new acquaintance as a consultant, Charlie hurriedly retools the ailing shoe factory to produce sexy footwear for transvestites.
Director Julian Jarrold keeps the pace moving and the narrative tidy. Lola indulges in some hyperbole about thigh-high red leather boots being about sex, but don't be fooled by his pronouncements; Kinky Boots might claim to be naughty, but it is proper enough to be served alongside tea and scones. Lola seems to be a drag queen by way of Disneyland, a decidedly asexual transvestite who acts as a fairy godmother to Charlie's sad-sack Cinderella.
Still, playing it safe isn't necessarily a bad thing. What Kinky Boots loses in predictability, it makes up for with craftsmanship. Screenwriters Geoff Deane and Tim Firth provide a story as witty as it is economical; the movie flirts with its themes -- clash of cultures, expectations of fathers, and so on -– without becoming ponderous. OK, so you know every step of the way where the movie is going next. But the filmmakers are too assured and competent for you to hold that against them.
It helps, too, that the cast seems to be enjoying themselves. Edgerton is endearingly frazzled, and Potts has a pixie-like presence. Best of all is Ejiofor, so memorable in 2002's Dirty Pretty Things, and who here commands every scene in which he appears.The DVD
The anamorphically enhanced 2.40:1 widescreen is a fine, if unremarkable, print transfer. The film is a bit dark and gloomy by design; cinematographer Eigil Bryld might have overdone Northampton's sooty industrial look.The Audio:
The Dolby Digital 5.1 is clean and makes notably inventive use of the back speakers during Lola's drag-show musical numbers. Although Adrian Johnston's music score is well-showcased, the track isn't perfect; there are a few instances in which dialogue volume is inconsistent. Audio tracks are in English and French, with subtitles available in Spanish and English for the hearing-impaired.Extras:
The commentary track brings together director Jarrold and cast members Ejiofor, Edgerton and Potts. The four commentators have a nice, relaxed rapport, and their anecdotes are reasonably amusing.
At 14 minutes and 30 seconds, The Real Kinky Boots Factory tells the tale of the real-life shoe manufacturer that inspired the movie (yes, the film is based on the story of a 115-year-old company that turned to making footwear for transvestites). The one-minute, 19-second Journey of a Brogue is a nifty trifle of a featurette that follows the many steps necessary to create a single shoe.
The DVD includes four deleted scenes that are surprisingly substantive, although it is understandable why they didn't make the final cut. Commentary is optional for the scenes, which run seven-minutes, 30-seconds.Final Thoughts:
Formulaic but fun, Kinky Boots is another in a line of British working-class comedies not quite as risqué as it would like to think it is. But no matter; the movie elicits its share of laughs and smiles.