Wednesday, 25 September 2013



Yet again my tin ear for comedy ruins what's obviously a perfectly hilarious laugh fest. I didn't so much as crack a smile during this crazy farce of mistaken identity, lost trousers, screaming queens, double entendres, childish slapstick, sitcom cameos and massive all-round humiliation. I mean, it must be me: it's based a long-running West End stage comedy from legendary farceur Ray Cooney that's literally crammed with more than half a century's worth of British comedy legends, from Richard Briers to Robin Askwith, Brian Murphy to Bernard Cribbins, and it's not like I've ever laughed much at anything with such comedic geniuses as Adam Sandler, Sacha Baron Cohen, Seth Rogen or Iain Duncan Smith.

No, it must be my sense of humour that's at fault, because the only other possible explanation would be that Run Your Your Wife is an unspeakable, jaw-dropping disaster with the natural comedic flair of a letter from the JobCentre telling you your benefits have been cut. Danny Dyer (hang on, I think I've spotted the flaw in the argument, the film and possibly the entire Universe) stars as a genial London cabbie with two wives: one in Stockwell, one in Finsbury. But one night he's concussed by a bag lady (not hard enough) and then has to run around frantically trying to stop his wives from finding out about each other. The press want to talk to him, two separate police officers turn up to interview him, he falls out of a window, he tells one wife the other is a transvestite, his best mate (Neil Morrissey) pretends to be him, then sits on a chocolate cake so it looks like he's soiled himself, they both have to pretend to be gay....

I am assured Run For Your Wife is a great night out at the theatre, with the split-second timing and impeccable clockwork construction of proper farce. But it's an abomination on the home screen. Opened out from two simple sets to half a dozen locations across London may give the material scope, but it robs it of focus and kills that dizzying escalation of mayhem stone dead. Central to the failure is the star casting of Danny Dyer, presumably seeking to extend his thespian range beyond "laddish yobbo" but it's torpedoed by a sense of comedy that's even more elusive than mine and his essential unlovability. Humour is difficult if you're good at it and impossible if you're not, and he isn't.

Mind you, he's not helped by the astonishing casting of Christopher Biggins and Lionel Blair as a couple of stereotypical screaming queens, the kind of dated comedy homosexuals that would have been considered dodgy in the days of Mr Humphries and Larry Grayson. I wouldn't suggest it qualifies as homophobic, as I don't think it's actively malicious, but merely tapping into the long-standing British comedy tradition of outrageous camp. That said, it's a tradition we kind of abandoned years ago, and it's startling to see it indulged so defiantly. Nor is Dyer's performance helped by surrounding him with dozens of genuine comedy giants: rather than their gifts rubbing off on him, they merely bring his inability into sharp relief even though they're not really doing anything, and half of them I didn't even notice. Frank Thornton is Man Getting Off Bus, Brian Murphy is Man On Allotment, Russ Abbot is Patient In Hospital, Su Pollard is Newsagent - and frankly you'd rather watch their hilarious misadventures than Dyer's because at least they know what to do even with a ropey script.

In the event, it's mesmerisingly awful: rather than enjoying it and laughing along, you just stare mutely at it as it flaps helplessly about like a one-winged pigeon. Robbed of the machine-like precision of a stage farce, sorely lacking a funny and charismatic lead, Run For Your Wife ends up as less fun than Carry On Cabby, less fun even than Adventures Of A Taxi Driver. Hell, it's not even as much fun as Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. The end credits promise a sequel.


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