Quirky British comedy may not be a shoo-in

"Kinky Boots" is another one of those British comedies, like "Waking Ned Devine," "The Full Monty," and "Calendar Girls," that looks as if it were made with both eyes set squarely on the US market. Nothing terribly wrong in that, but the flat-out commercialism, the pandering for laughs and tears, can get a bit exhausting after a while. Can the Broadway musical be far behind?

Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton) is a decent enough chap who inherits his father's failing shoe factory. Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a female impersonator who figures out that the way to save the company is to specialize in kinky boots of his own design. Apparently transvestites all over England have been wedging themselves into women's shoes and torturing their feet in the process. Lola's brainstorm saves her arches and Charlie's business.

A story this outlandish of course turns out to have been "inspired" by a true story, although first-time director Julian Jarrold didn't exactly convince me that any of this ever happened. The best reason to check the film out is Ejiofor's performance, which is packed with grace and wit and pathos. Ever since "Dirty Pretty Things," I thought he had the makings of a star. "Kinky Boots" may not be stellar, but he sure is. Grade: B-

Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving sexuality, and for language.

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