If “Walk of Shame” were a smarter movie, it might count as a subversive observation on how women are treated in society in general and Los Angeles specifically — never listened to, frequently talked over, often mistaken for prostitutes and generally treated more as a nuisance than anything else.
That’s an interesting idea, and it occasionally surfaces in this frantic farce about the perils and pitfalls of having to make it home on foot in the City of Angels, but ideas are not at the top of the agenda here. For everything this movie gets right about the specifics of L.A. (the ear-worminess of the Empire Carpets jingle, the fact that no one remembers anyone’s number anymore because it’s saved in the phone), it gets plenty more wrong (we’re expected to believe a native would park without checking for “Tow Away Zone” signs first, or that cops wouldn’t know how to pronounce “Chabad”).
Elizabeth Banks gamely carries the film on her back as Meghan Myles, a Texas-born anchorperson for a local L.A. station’s 5:00pm news. When she gets dumped by her fiancé and passed over for a network gig on the same day, her galpals Rose (Gillian Jacobs, “Community”) and Denise (Sarah Wright Olsen, 21 & Over) take her out for a night of shots and man-chasing.
Meghan winds up going home with nice-guy bartender Gordon (James Marsden) — he describes himself as a “post-modern romantic novelist” without ever sounding like he quite understands what any of those words mean — but then locks herself out of Gordon’s apartment after getting a message from her agent that she’s back in the running for the cable news job.
Stranded downtown sans car, purse or phone, and wearing a clingly yellow mini-dress, Meghan tries desperately to make her way back home, despite bizarre encounters with a cabbie (Ken Davitian, “Borat”), Orthodox Jews, a judgmental bus driver (Niecy Nash) and the denizens of a crack house.
The latter scene turns out to be one of the film’s highlights, as Scrilla (Lawrence Gilliard, Jr., “The Machinist”), Hulk (Da’Vone McDonald) and Pookie (Alphonso McAuley) wind up being the nicest and most helpful people Meghan encounters all night. (This being Los Angeles, they also all have notes for her on how to come off as more personable on camera.)
Ultimately, “Walk of Shame” winds up being the same little-lost-girl gag over and over, and it’s increasingly difficult to believe that an otherwise capable woman could be so utterly clueless and helpless about navigating her way though her own hometown. You can sense writer-director Steven Brill (“Little Nicky,” “Mr. Deeds”) trying desperately to make his own west coast version of “After Hours,” but he doesn’t seem to know the formula that turns escalating mortification into laughs.
If anyone walks away unblemished from “Walk of Shame,” it’s Banks, who throws herself into every bit of physical comedy and humiliation the movie sends her way. If the movie had gone for broke as often as its lead actress, the results wouldn’t feel so disposable.