Nine years ago Elizabeth Banks and James Marsden starred in the underseen indie gem Heights as an engaged couple whose relationship implodes as he comes to terms with his homosexuality. The two actors find themselves in a much more doomed situation in Walk of Shame, a lumpy and laughless farce from writer-director Steven Brill (Drillbit Taylor, Little Nicky), a man who never told a joke he couldn’t ruin.
Banks plays a weekend newscaster in Los Angeles who’s under consideration for a promotion, provided she can preserve her vapid good-girl persona and not disqualify herself with any — per the movie’s geek speak — raunchy Twit pics. But hijinks following a drunken one-night stand with a bartender-novelist (Marsden) ensue and she finds herself on the street in a sunflower-yellow Marc Jacbos mini-dress with no money, no cell phone, and no way home.
Though replete with plot holes and lapses in logic as wide and ugly as the L.A. Freeway, Walk of Shame doesn’t have the moxie to go anywhere ludicrous or dangerous with its premise. A scene in which Banks has to negotiate with three drug dealers in a crack house is the only time that it even lightly grazes against the type of bold racy humor of something like After Hours or South Park. All the other comic mileage is spent on Banks being mistaken for a prostitute, first by a vaguely immigrant cab driver (Borat’s Ken Davitian, still riding on his carpet of back hair) and then by two cops (Ethan Suplee and Bill Burr) who are as inept and misdirected as the movie itself.
Banks is a gifted and wily actress; there’s a jokester’s warmth to her performances, which comes through in such dramas as Heights and Seabiscuit or ostensible caricature parts like The Hunger Games. And that’s what makes it so hard to watch her stumbling around Los Angeles in Walk of Shame. As the character is jeopardizing her shot as an anchorwoman, all you want is for the credits to roll before Banks risks jeopardizing her career. D