Dirs: Ray Cooney, John Luton. UK. 2012. 94mins
Carry On-style British comedy is alive and unwell in Run For Your Wife, a grimly old-fashioned, nudge nudge romp based on Ray Cooney’s long-running 1980s stage farce. It feels like stepping back in time as trousers are dropped, camp gay stereotypes are milked for cheap laughs and the lead actors are encouraged to give wide-eyed performances that virtually poke you in the ribs for attention.
Cooney delivers with fast wipes, dissolves, split screen sequences, perky music and an endless succession of fleeting cameos from yesteryear stars and television sit com veterans.
It is difficult to envisage theatrical potential in such hopelessly dated, poorly executed material. The play was a crowd-pleaser in its day and the cast of television favourites may endear it to a (much) older demographic in ancillary.
Run For Your Wife is the first film that the 80 year-old Ray Cooney has directed since Not Now Darling in 1976. The farce belongs to that era as chirpy taxi driver John Smith (Danny Dyer) is placed in the limelight by his defence of a bag lady (Judi Dench). The newspaper interest in this have-a-go hero threatens to expose him as a bigamist married to both Michelle (Denise Van Outen) and Stephanie (Sarah Harding).
Trying to keep both unsuspecting spouses in the dark is the basis of a frantic comedy that Cooney delivers with fast wipes, dissolves, split screen sequences, perky music and an endless succession of fleeting cameos from yesteryear stars and television sitcom veterans including Bernard Cribbins, Cliff Richard, Sylvia Syms, Donald Sinden and Robin Askwith.
Danny Dyer is likeable enough in a change of pace role that cries out for the late Sid James, but a shrill Denise van Outen and an irksome Neil Morrissey as John’s gormless neighbour Gary feel like liabilities. A closing declaration that the character of John Smith will return in Caught In The Net, another Cooney stage farce, feels more like a threat than a promise.
Production company: Run For Your Wife Films
International sales: Arclight Films www.arclightfilms.com
Producers: James F. Simpson, Graham Fowler
Co-producer: Nigel Goldsack
Executive producer: Vicki Michelle
Co-executive producers: Phil Richards, Phil Taylor
Screenplay: Ray Cooney, based on his stage play
Cinematography: Graham Fowler
Editor: John Pegg
Production designer: Fi Russell
Music: Lawrence Hiller, Sophie Hiller, Walter Christian Mair
Main cast: Danny Dyer, Denise van Outen, Sarah Harding, Neil Morrissey