2012 turned out to be something of a banner year for terrible comedies, with the all-star embarrassment Movie 43 opening to a chorus of disapproval and howls of "worst comedy ever" - only for those very same easily-offended critics to eat their words a matter of weeks later when this ill-advised big-screen version of Ray Cooney's redoubtable stage farce opened, very briefly in a handful of cinemas, before distributors pulled the plug. The word was out - Run For Your Wife set a new benchmark in terms of gob-smacking wretchedness. It was Sex Lives of the Potato Men all over again, the benighted British film industry apparently having failed to learn the valuable lessons of the vile Viz spin-off Fat Slags (2004) or the barrel-scraping Bottom spin-off Guest House Paradiso.
There's no denying that Run For Your Wife is indeed awful, but does it really deserve the vitriol that was spewed all over it, causing it to disintegrate like one of Seth Brundle's doughnuts in the Fly (1986)? Well, Danny Dyer - now safely ensconced in EastEnders, but at the time negotiating a tricky image change after the public and critics alike decided they'd had quite enough of him playing a foul-mouthed Cockney geezer - didn't do too badly in the pivotal role of John Smith, a bigamist taxi driver trying to juggle two marriages. Ray Cooney's enduring and endearing love for the city of London shines through several of the more engaging, less hectic sequences, particularly the opening titles which look like a spinning rack of tourist-friendly postcards come to life (though the appearance of the soon-to-be-jailed celebrity paedophile Rolf Harris might have to be cautiously edited out, should the film ever receive a television airing). There's certainly fun to be had in spotting the ridiculous number of cameos from Cooney's showbiz chums - Jeffrey Holland! Russ Abbot! Brian Murphy! Derek Griffiths! Bernard Cribbins! Nicky Henson! Maureen Lipman! Prunella Scales! Donald Sinden! Richard Briers! You get the idea. It's as if Dyer lives in a world entirely populated by British celebrities from the seventies and eighties. Bags of fun for people like me, who don't have much of a life.
Sadly, these disparate elements are powerless to save the film from itself, and what worked beautifully on stage for the best part of a decade transfers to the screen looking more like a hideous, primary- coloured Chuckle Brothers romp with a slightly higher budget than what the unfortunate Mr Dyer rashly described as 'the ultimate British comedy'. For the first half, it's mostly inoffensive, broadly played slapstick, yet from the moment Christopher Biggins and Lionel Blair's staggeringly stereotypical pair of ageing queens are introduced, leading to an apparently endless sequence in which they try to clear up their flooded apartment, the film becomes an endurance test, a chore to sit through unleavened by some unpleasant homophobia and Denise Van Outen's subtlety-free and increasingly fever-pitched performance.
Yes, Denise Van Outen is in this - the former 'geezerbird' television presenter and lad's mag favourite, alongside former Girls Aloud performer Sarah Harding. Neither of whom are noted exponents of theatrical farce, of course, which begs the question - what are they doing here? They probably asked themselves that throughout the entire shoot. The remainder of the comic heavy lifting is left to Neil Morrissey, who by 2012 had long ceased to resemble the puppy-eyed lad- about-town familiar from Men Behaving Badly and had started to look as if he was suffering from the disorientating effects of early onset Alzheimer's - a situation not helped by the fact that his big comedy set-piece involves sitting on a large chocolate cake. All those accomplished comedy actors hamming it up on the sidelines, and the main four roles went to Dyer, Van Outen, Harding and Morrissey. There's no justice.
Worst of all, a sequel is optimistically promised (or rather threatened) in the end credit roll, this time based on another Cooney stage hit, Caught in the Act - which apparently takes place eighteen years after Run For Your Wife. If, by some fluke of chance, that one actually gets the green light, brace yourself for a fresh spate of "worst comedy ever!" reviews circa 2030.