Film review | Run for Your Wife – Hold your noses! Ray Cooney has exhumed his 30-year-old stage farce

Run For Your Wife - Neil Morrissey, Danny Dyer, Sarah Harding, Denise Van Outen, Kellie Shirley

Ray Cooney’s 30-year-old stage farce Run for Your Wife finally reaches the screen – and it’s dire. Truly dire. An offensive, witless farrago.

Indeed, it’s so bad you have to wonder how the original play managed to run for nine years in the West End and get translated into 30 languages.

Run for Your Wife’s plot – about a bigamous London taxi driver – must surely have seemed horribly dated back in 1983, a year after alternative comedy made its mark on TV with the debut of The Comic Strip Presents… on the opening night of Channel 4. Updating the story to the present, as Cooney has done here, only makes the film more glaringly anachronistic.

For what it’s worth, the plot revolves around Danny Dyer’s taxi driver John Smith, who’s been happily juggling one wife, Sarah Harding’s Stephanie, in Finsbury, and another, Denise Van Outen’s Michelle, in Stockwell, until an accident disrupts his schedule. Aided by laddish neighbour Gary (Neil Morrissey), he strives to keep his wives sweet, maintain his double identity and evade the suspicions of the police. Their efforts become ever more frantic but entirely fail to raise even a snigger, unless you find the idea of John and Gary posing as lovers screamingly funny.

The film’s social attitudes – to homosexuality, women, marriage – appear to have been preserved in mothballs since the 1970s. Given air now, they give off an offensive odour – and the presence of fleeting appearances from a host of vintage light-entertainment ‘stars’, from Rolf Harris and Cliff Richard to Lionel Blair and June Whitfield, can’t disguise the stink.

In cinemas from Friday 15th February.

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