Time Out says
Griff Rhys Jones and Lee Mack star in this fun but overegged Molière update
‘Far too respectful’ is the charge writer-director Sean Foley levels against most revivals of seventeenth-century farceur Molière. Humour is an ever-evolving thing, and after 350-odd years even comic geniuses are in need of an update, right? So as a heads-up to any purists out there: don’t expect any reverence in ‘The Miser’, which Foley has co-adapted with Phil Porter.
Given that the farce is essentially an ancestor of the sitcom, it seems appropriate that a roster of TV comic actors fill the cast. Griff Rhys Jones plays titular tight-arse Harpagon, who’s convinced everyone’s out to fleece him of his treasure. His daughter (Katy Wix) wants to marry the lowborn Valère (Mathew Horne of ‘Gavin & Stacey’); his foppish, spendthrift son (Ryan Gage) has designs on Marianne (Ellie White). Running around in the background is curmudgeonly dogsbody Jacques (stand-up Lee Mack, clearly relishing the Baldrick-esque part).
Make no mistake, this is played for very broad laughs indeed. The fourth wall is dispensed with after about 30 seconds, the dialogue is peppered with topical anachronisms, and the gags involve falling plasterwork, scurrying rodents and boners in breeches. Beneath it all remains a stupendously fun story of stolen cashboxes, hurried weddings and long-lost relatives. Kudos to Jones and Horne in particular: they know to play it straight(ish) when Molière’s breakneck plot requires it of them. But unending jokes about payday loans and Sports Direct are often as distracting as amusing.
It’s a reminder that there’s the finest of lines between enriching and compromising classic material. And okay, it’s all low-IQ stuff, but you’ll still be convulsing in your seat with laughter. And laughter was what Molière was in it for. He probably wouldn’t care about the liberties taken here.