Three Comedies from Buena Vista
Kinky Boots (October 14/06)
Though Kinky Boots contains few surprises throughout its slightly overlong running time, there's nevertheless no denying the effectiveness of both the film's performances and its various feel-good elements. The story follows a reluctant shoemaker named Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton) as he attempts to save his family's footwear business by enlisting the help of sassy cross-dresser Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor), much to the chagrin of some of the company's more conservative employees (including Nick Frost's Don). Featuring a screenplay by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth (the latter of whom also cowrote the thematically-similar Calendar Girls), Kinky Boots' amiable vibe generally ensures that the film is never quite as tedious as one might've expected (this is despite the fact that virtually every single plot twist is telegraphed from miles away). And as strong as Edgerton is in the central role, this is clearly Ejiofor's show from start to finish; the actor delivers an engaging and thoroughly charismatic performance that's unquestionably as effective as anything he's done in the past. The inclusion of several overly melodramatic third-act developments - including, of course, a fake break-up - ultimately leaves Kinky Boots with a sour aftertaste, and it seems unlikely that the film will ever achieve the same sort of crossover success as The Fully Monty, Billy Elliot, and other movies of this ilk.
Stick It (October 17/06)
Although Stick It does benefit from Jeff Bridges' expectedly superb performance, there's simply no getting around the tremendous amount of cliche and sentiment that's been hard-wired into the proceedings by writer/director Jessica Bendinger. Missy Peregrym stars as Haley Graham, a rebellious teen who's forced to participate in a gymnastics program after causing thousands of dollars worth of damage during a bicycle stunt. Conflict ensues after Haley comes face-to-face with several athletes from her past, all of whom are still upset over her decision to walk out on the Junior Olympics. While there's little doubt that teenaged girls will thrill to Haley's anti-establishment antics, Bendinger generally fails to include elements within her screenplay for viewers over a certain age (Bridges' presence notwithstanding). There's a surfeit of eye-rollingly silly plot twists peppered throughout the film, and the level of predictability only increases as the story progresses (this is particularly true of the conventional, thoroughly upbeat conclusion). If nothing else, however, Stick It does feature a surprisingly effective performance from Peregrym - who surely deserves better material than this (sample line of dialogue: "I'm so sure I'm practically deodorant!")
Under the Tuscan Sun (October 19/06)
Under the Tuscan Sun casts Diane Lane as Frances, a moderately successful author who decides to chuck everything and embark on a whirlwind tour of Italy after learning of her boyfriend's infidelity. There, she impulsively buys a villa in Tuscany and begins ingratiating herself among the locals. Based on a novel by Frances Mayes and written/directed by Audrey Wells, Under the Tuscan Sun sets itself apart from thematic cousins (including Ridley Scott's A Good Year) by eschewing the cliches of this mini-genre and instead unfolds in a much more natural (and believable) way. The episodic, free-wheeling structure employed by Wells quickly proves to be an appropriate choice for the material - which is as lightweight and fluffy as the premise might've indicated. Though the movie ultimately reveals itself to be a fairly forgettable piece of work, there's certainly something to be said for Geoffrey Simpson's stunning cinematography and Diane Lane's expectedly charismatic performance.