If you fancy a taste of what movies will be like in the post-Brexit apocalypse then this one is for you. Run For Your Wife harks back to the days when we Brits made Carry-on films and feature-length version of rubbish sitcoms, and everyone wore beige. The problem is this reeking cowpat of a movie makes Carry on Camping look like Citizen Kane.
Its essentially a vehicle for Danny Dyer, a man who started out in third-rate Brit gangster films and has gone downhill from there. He now makes a living in EastEnders and as a cheeky cockney caricature both on screen and off. But at least acting is his day job. That can’t be said of his female co-stars, Denise van Outen (TV presenter) and Sarah Harding (one fifth of Girls Aloud).
I was surprised to learn this was adapted from a 1980s West End play, as I assumed they had just come up with the hilarious title first and then retrofitted a plot to suit it. The set-up is this: Dyer is John Smith, a lovable London cabbie bigamist who has a wife called Michelle in Stockwell (van Outen) and a wife called Stephanie in Finsbury (Harding). After intervening in a late-night mugging, Smith ends up in hospital and as both wives seek to track him down his double-life threatens to unravel. Hilarity then ensues as Smith and his gormless pal Gary (Neil Morrissey) weave a farcical web of deception designed to prevent the women from discovering the truth, including at one stage pretending to be gay lovers. “I can’t pretend to be a homosexual, I can’t even pretend to be a homosapien” says Gary, in what is, depressingly, probably the film’s best joke (its either that or a couple called Richard and Francis who are nicknamed ‘Dick and Fanny’).
The film has none of the cheeky charm of the 1960s/70s films it attempts to emulate, yet retains many of the crass stereotypes that defined that era – notably a mincing queen played by – you guessed it – Christopher Biggins. There’s similar talent on display in cameo roles: Lionel Blair, Les Dennis, Sue Pollard, Russ Abbot, the man who played Jeffery Fairbrother in Hi-dei-Hi and lots others you never see outside of Panto season. Plus Rolf Harris. And, incredibly, Judi Dench. I thought I spotted Harry Enfield too, but it was actually Robin Asquith, someone I assumed had died about 30 years ago.
But don’t be fooled into thinking this is a light-hearted romp. It really isn’t. Despite coming in at under an hour and a half, it seems to drag on endlessly, and despite the flimsy plot, it’s hard to figure out what’s going on most of the time.
I was mildly interested to see how things would conclude, hoping that the final scene would be Dyer in bed with a wife on each arm and him signing off with a naughty wink to camera. Alas, not: he basically gets away with it and life reverts to normal. The final scene has both wives separately tell him that they’re pregnant, which sets things up for a sequel that was mercifully never made. We can thank the Lord for that.
If Run For Your Wife is remembered at all, it will be as one of the worst British films of its day. It’s already famous for scoring a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and that’s probably being generous.