It’s fair to say that Danny Dyer plays to type. The great mockney of all mockneys is not known for his chameleonic performances; he’s never going to be mistaken for the Lon Chaney of his generation. We shall never hear the following words uttered: ‘And the Academy Award for Best Actor goes to… Danny Dyer for his performance in Wat Choo Looking at Bruv.’
So, when he took on the lead in the big screen adaptation of Ray Cooney’s bawdy farce, Run for Your Wife, we all crinkled our brows and went ‘derp?’ After all, based on previous performances, Dyer is to comedy, what Liam Gallagher is to wit and reasoned debate. Isn’t that right, our kid?
And it looks like my chin stroking and feverish worries are justified. Like Big Ben chiming on New Year, Dyer hasn’t let us down. He is dreadful. But that’s like swimming in the sewers and worrying about the turds that surround you, when one has dropped into your mouth. Run for Your Wife just doesn’t work artistically, amusingly or even ironically.
Directed by Cooney himself, the film sees Dyer as a Landahn cabbie, who manages to hold down two marriages through meticulous planning and talking through his arse. Wife one (Denise Van Outen) believes he does night shifts, whilst wifey number two (Sarah Harding) believes he works during the day. Which, just to digress for a second, doesn’t make a blind lick of sense. Anyway, helping a bag lady from being mugged (Judi Dench says ‘fuck’. Chortle!), Dyer is knocked out and spends the night in hospital. With his schedule out of whack, he runs around trying to stop everyone, from his wives to the police, from finding out about his bigamy. All whilst being helped by his dopey neighbour played by Neil Morrissey. If only The Vanishing Man had caught on, eh Neil?
It is fair and justifiable to say that the plot to Run for Your Wife is absolute balderdash, with jokes set up in a manner we haven’t seen since A Few Best Men. When Morrissey is given custody of a chocolate cake and told to look after it, you sit there like prisoner of war waiting for the depressing inevitability of it all.
Run for Your Wife harks back to a particular age of cinema. An age that saw the Carry On movies in their last death rattles, big screen adaptations of TV programmes where the whole cast go to the Costa Del Sol, and sitcoms dressing racism up as the loony left getting their knickers in a twist. In Run for Your Wife, Christopher Biggins and Lionel Blair play a couple, one of whom wears women’s clothing, and that’s the joke, apparently. It’s the kind of knuckle dragging stereotyping we thought couldn’t be topped by Shame’s ‘Having sex with gay men is terrible, right?’ ending.
But it gets worse.
The final act of the film sees everyone running around with their pants around their ankles and being accused of being gay or a transsexual. And we really need to focus on that verb, ‘accused’. The number of times Dyer and his motley crew puff out their chests and go on about how they luv the birds is frankly embarrassing. You could argue that you’re supposed to laugh at their protestations, but we’re pretty sure that’s a weak argument. The joke seems to be: pretending to be gay equals hilarious. Imagine being gay?! Ugh!
Presumably in an attempt to lend the film some credibility, the whole sorry affair has been swaddled in numerous cameos from the Ghost of Light Entertainment. There’s a reason why the night sky was dark whilst filming Run for Your Wife. All the stars were here. Russ Abbott, Bernard Cribbins and, in hindsight, an ill-judged Rolf Harris are just some of the faces cropping up to persuade you that you’re watching comedy gold. When Andrew Sachs, dressed as a moustached waiter, pratfalls his way into the lap of Anthony Head, you don’t laugh. You just wish you were watching Fawlty Towers.
Slow, idiotic, offensive and downright insulting to logic, Run for Your Wife is 2013’s answer to The Room… But without any of the fun.