Walk of Shame: Film Review

Banks delivers an amusing slapstick turn in this otherwise strained, formulaic comedy

Elizabeth Banks plays a woman stranded on the downtown streets of Los Angeles without a car, money or phone in Steve Brill's comedy.

The sight of Elizabeth Banks clad in a short, tight, clingy yellow dress for most of its running time is the primary pleasure of Walk of Shame, Steven Brill's one-note comedy in which the actress, much like her hapless character, does her best to survive under trying circumstances. Playing a television news reporter forced to traverse the mean streets of Los Angeles on foot sans money or cell phone, Banks succeeds in mining a few laughs from the otherwise strained, contrived proceedings.

The central character, Meghan, is up for a cushy job at a national cable news network run by executives who'll tolerate no moral trespasses. Her trouble begins when, despondent over a recent breakup with her fiancé, she takes up her girlfriends' offer for a night on a town, forgoing her usual staid pantsuit and instead getting tarted up in the aforementioned dress and high heels.

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Getting rip-roaringly drunk, she manages to get her foot stuck in a dance club's fire escape, only to be rescued by handsome passing stranger Gordon (James Marsden). After their resulting one-night stand, she slinks out of his apartment, only to discover that her car has been towed with her purse, ID and phone still in it.

A series of wacky episodes ensues as Meghan, constantly mistaken for a prostitute (really, in L.A., where even this dress would be considered practically demure?), finds herself interacting with a gallery of eccentric characters, including a trio of drug dealers at a crack den; a surly, armed cabbie; a sassy bus driver; a Hasidic man who thinks that she's been sent by the devil to tempt him; and a horny adolescent boy who offers to lend her his bike if she’ll show him her boobs. All the way she's relentlessly pursued by a pair of bumbling cops who treat her as if she’s Public Enemy No. 1.

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The film has its occasionally amusing moments, such as the drug dealers delivering a surprisingly thoughtful critique of Meghan's news anchoring skills and her run-in with an officious car impound clerk (a very funny Tig Notaro). But most of the would-be humor, including Kevin Nealon’s seemingly improvised riffing as a feckless traffic reporter monitoring the action from his helicopter, seems lazily tossed off.

Marsden's laid-back quality serves him well as the handsome knight in shining armor, and Banks certainly doesn't have to do a walk of shame regarding her performance. Gamely throwing herself into her character's desperate physical exertions, she delivers a winning turn, proving that her comic chops are the equal of her beauty. Now if she could only find a better vehicle to show them off.

Opens May 2 (Focus World)

Production: Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, FilmDistrict, Lakeshore Entertainment

Cast: Elizabeth Banks, James Marsden, Gillian Jacobs, Sarah Wright Olsen, Kevin Nealon, Ethan Suplee, Bill Burr, Lawrence Gilliard Jr.

Director/screenwriter: Steven Brill

Producers: Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi, Sidney Kimmel

Executive producers: Ted Gidlow, Jim Tauber, Matt Berenson

Director of photography: Jonathan Brown

Editor: Patrick J. Don Vito

Production designer: Perry Andelin Blake

Costume designer: Lindsay Ann Mckay

Composer: John Debney

Rated R, 94 minutes