VOD film review: Run for Your Wife
Danny Dyer getting hit in the face by a rake2
James R | On 01, Jun 2014
Director: Ray Cooney, John Luton
Cast: Danny Dyer, Sarah Harding, Denise Van Outen, Neil Morrissey
Watch Run for Your Wife online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
You’d think a film with Danny Dyer getting hit in the face by a rake would be fun to watch.
You’d be wrong.
Run for Your Wife does indeed feature the star of Mean Machine being slapped in the bonce by a gardening tool. It also features Neil Morrissey sitting on a cake. And a cameo by Rolf Harris and Cliff Richard. And a theme song by Denise Van Outen. The one thing it doesn’t have? Jokes.
There are remnants of jokes. Traces of fossilised gags, dug up from 31 years ago, when Ray Cooney’s play of the same name was a hit in London’s West End. The fact that this adaptation is directed, written and produced by Cooney himself says all you need to know.
It follows John Smith (Dyer), a loveable bigamist who drives a taxi. Outside of the cab, he’s married to Mrs. Smith (Harding) and Mrs. Smith (Van Outen) – because he’s just so darn loveable that he can’t help but get hitched when he meets a woman he likes. When an encounter with a violent bag lady (played by none other than Judi Dench) gets him arrested, though, his double life starts to unravel. Hijinks, inevitably, ensue. Hijinks that involve Danny Dyer getting hit in the face by a rake. And Neil Morrissey sitting on a cake.
All of this would perhaps be fine if Run for Your Wife were entertaining, but it isn’t. Impaling your own face upon an arboreal implement would be more enjoyable than watching this. Not because Danny Dyer is terrible – he’s proven before with his Pinter work that he can act – or even because Neil Morrissey is rubbish – see Men Behaving Badly – but because the script is so horribly, horribly dated.
“You’re driving like a mad woman!” the dreadfully miscast Sarah Harding (of Girls Aloud fame) tells the even more dreadfully miscast Denise Van Outen. Because women drivers, eh? They’re funny. Then Danny Dyer and Neil Morrissey pretend to be homosexuals to avoid suspicion from the police – much to their manly male discomfort because, of course, neither of them are queer. Those gays, eh? Hysterical.
These kind of lazy targets might have worked in the 1980s, accompanied by lots of frantic running around on stage, but on-screen in 2014, the farce falls flat – almost fascinatingly so, if it wasn’t so dull. Tin-eared dialogue and shallow gags aside, Cooney and John Luton simply can’t direct physical comedy, a fact that is painfully obvious no matter how many times Morrissey gurns at the camera. Or sits on a cake.
Almost every decision goes spectacularly wrong, right from the point where we’re asked to cheer on Dyer’s promiscuous cabbie. How many iconic movie bigamists do you know who are loveable? None. Because they’re bigamists. But for some reason, Cooney seems to think that John Smith is an ideal cinematic hero, celebrating every step he takes just to save his own two-dimensional butt.
Are the cops on his tail? Will his wives find out? We don’t care, which leaves any chance of sympathy, threat or humour squashed like a cake Neil Morrissey just sat on. John Smith isn’t merely unlikeable; he’s bland. He’s so bland that he makes rice cakes seem interesting.
As the host of faded stars line up for their cameos – “Hilarious!” says one onlooker, while Richard Briers falls into a hedge – the endless string of boring, contrived scenarios becomes more and more awkward to watch. Run for Your Wife isn’t bad. It’s not even so bad it’s good; it’s just embarrassing. And yes, that includes Danny Dyer getting hit in the face by a rake.