A cute, if extremely simple and even regressive movie, Kinky Boots has one and only one reason to exist, and that is Chiwetel Ejiofor. Which turns out not to be a bad reason. (By the way: chew'-i-tell edge'-oh-for).

Ejiofor plays Lola, a London drag queen who has a chance meeting with a tweedy little Northamptonite (Northamptoner? Northamptonian?) named Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton). Charlie is the heir to a shoe factory, famed for the quality of their wares, that has recently come into financial difficulties. At the urging of Lauren (Sarah-Jane Potts), a recently fired/rehired worker who suggests finding a niche market to keep the company afloat. The niche market Charlie stumbles upon, thanks to Lola, is high-quality boots "for women, who are men."

Of course, it's become extremely trendy nowadays to shower praise on Ejiofor, who first hit the American radar with Dirty Pretty Things in 2002. I can't claim to have any better appreciation for him than many other people, but I will parrot along with everyone else that in the last four years, he's been great in film after film. And here, he manages to take what might be the most stereotypical possible role (think Nathan Lane in The Birdcage) and engage in none of its stereotypes. He does not mince, he does not sashay, he does not prance. He does not play a drama queen - he plays a drag queen. Part of this comes from the script, which rather curiously (and perhaps unwisely) desexes the character completely. Lola is not a transvestite, and scorns those who are; it's implied very quietly that she's heterosexual. She is, simply and in all, a drag queen. The only explanation we ever see is the implication that it was her father's insistence on doing manly things coupled with an obstinance against being told to do anything that turned a boy named Simon into Lola.

For most of the film, Lola is Simon, having dressed down in order to avoid offending the Northampton locals. Ejiofor embodies Lola's discomfort in this costume (and make no mistake, Simon is a costume) in a way that makes it clear that this person's true identity, true self, is the drag queen within.

Which is where the film starts to get rocky.

Basically, the theme of the whole seems to be, "look! Drag queens are people, too!" ...okay? How can this possibly be considered a radical idea? It's been more than a decade since The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert ushered in the mid-90's drag queen boom in movies, and I have a difficult time imagining that any but the most puritanical of audiences, especially in drag-friendly England, will find this to be an earthshattering concept. Coupled with the sexless life Lola seems to lead, it makes the movie awkwardly conservative. And the fact that Lola is the only black character in the movie doesn't help.

Because really, this isn't Lola's story. It's Charlie's. It's about a staid little vanilla man in a staid little vanilla town finding himself by cutting loose and being wacky, due to the influence of an exotic interloper. Yes, it's yet another Full Monty clone, and as such, there is not one surprise to be had in the entire damn thing. Will the shoe factory be saved? Will Charlie come to see Lola as a person and not an oddity? Will Charlie realize that Lauren is an infinitely better fit for him than his shrewish wife? Will Charlie end up onstage in a pair of his kinky boots? Um...have you ever seen a movie? Good.

But Ejiofor is worth it. Maybe not the most convincing woman in drag history, but he embodies the identity of a drag queen as well as I have ever seen. And he can belt out a disco tune with the best of them.