Judge Gordon Sullivan has mastered the Walk of Lame Review Blurbs.
Awesome night. Epic aftermath.
People who work in Hollywood must exhibit some of the signs of gambling addiction, because they never really know if the millions of dollars and hours of time spent on a movie will result in a hit or not. And even when they're pretty sure it will—like the final Harry Potter film—they adjust their expectations accordingly. That means the target is always possibly out of reach, making every release a gamble. Films that are reviewed terribly can gross $100 Million opening weekend, while films that have name actors and good reviews can flop for no apparent reason. The latter happened to Walk of Shame, the Elizabeth Banks comedy that came and went in the blink of an eye. Though it's not classic comedy by any stretch, the film deserves to find a wider audience, especially among fans of the actress.
Facts of the Case
Meghan Miles (Elizabeth Banks, Zack and Miri Make a Porno) is the perfect newscaster in LA She's smart, pretty, and has a way with her audience. That's why a big cable network comes to call, but when she doesn't get the job her friends convince her that a night of partying is the only way to feel better. Despite her "good girl" reputation, Meghan goes home with a guy (James Marsden, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues) for a night of athletic sex. Very early the next morning, she gets the message that she's back in the running for the job at the big network, but only if she can get back to her post at the 5 O'Clock news to wow the execs. That should be a simple issue, but she's hungover, her car has been towed, she's locked out of her new guy's apartment with no money or a phone and has to make it across town to the studio. Hijinks naturally ensue.
Though I think it deserves better than the ignominious disappearance it got at the box office, Walk of Shame isn't a great movie, and we should get its faults out there at the start. The film's main problem is that it doesn't quite know what to make of itself. It feels, to a certain extent, like the kind of film that Sandra Bullock would have made at the height of her popularity, since everyone would laugh at Bullock being mistaken for a hooker for 95 minutes. But therein lies the film's problem. In terms of comedy it feels very much like it's aiming for a 90s level of laughs (and it's no accident that writer/director Stephen Brill had his biggest hit, at least as a writer, with The Mighty Ducks in 1992).
But comedy has moved on since those times. Post-Bridesmaids and The Heat, audiences expect a bit more raunch from comedies. This is especially true when the film is called Walk of Shame. With a few exceptions for the use of curse words, it's largely a PG-13 affair, a mistaken-identity comedy that just happens to be about a women who decided to have sex with someone she barely knows. Without the kind of nastiness audiences have come to expect in the post-Apatow world, Walk of Shame struggles. It struggles all the more because it's also not really a romantic comedy, and the premise of a walk-of-shame is going to turn off those who want a more light-hearted comedy.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Banks carries the day. She has a good mix of verbal and physical comedy, and she really sells her utter inability to deal with her situation. The film does a good job of dealing with what it would be like to be stranded in a modern city without a wallet or phone. Much like Meghan I don't have a lot of numbers memorized, so even if I could find a pay phone to call collect it wouldn't do me much good. Banks sells this aspect of her character without making her come off as ditzy or incompetent. The rest of her cast is good too. Marsden puts on the charm in this film, and it's easy to see how he would woo Meghan. Gillian Jacobs and Sarah Wright are Meghan's friends who have a great time chasing after Meghan once they realize her predicament. Bill Burr and Ethan Suplee are also funs as a pair of cops who keep encountering Meghan on her journey through LA.
A lot of people also claim that the film is misogynist because it's all about this "walk of shame" and how a "good girl" gets mistaken for a prostitute. I think these reviews miss the point. The interesting thing about Walk of Shame is that it spends 95 minutes pointing out how silly and arbitrary the rules of being a "good girl" are. The film itself doesn't condemn Meghan for her actions. A series of mishaps occur that put her in some terrible situations, but overall her decision to sleep with a random dude works in her favor. Instead, the film shows us how silly and arbitrary the line between "good girl" and "bad girl" really is. If walking down an unfamiliar alley in a tight dress suddenly ruins Meghan as a "good girl," then there wasn't much to the "good girl" nonsense to begin with. The film is much more liable to charges of racism (where the only three substantial African-American characters are crack dealers/crackheads), but those avoiding it as a misogyny-fest are missing the mark.
Universal gives the film a solid, if extras-free, Blu-ray release. The 2.40:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer looks great. The bright LA outdoor scenes showcase a lot of strong detail and bold colors, while the night scenes and darker interiors have great black levels. Compression artifacts aren't a problem either, so overall this is a very watchable transfer. The DTS-HD 5.1 track keeps dialogue audible. There are a few scenes where Meghan finds herself in some "action" that showcase a bit of directionality. Sadly there are no extras aside from a digital copy of the film, which isn't a surprise given how badly the film flopped at the box office.
No, Walk of Shame isn't going to set a new standard in comedy. However, for those who don't mind a bit of formula with their laughs, the film delivers some decent performances and a few chuckles. Fans of Elizabeth Banks are especially encouraged to give the film at least a rental.
Nothing to be ashamed of. Not guilty.
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