Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd, together. Two of comedy’s biggest names in one film – what more could you want? After watching Ideal Home, the answer is… ‘a lot more’.
Coogan stars as Erasmus Bramble, an eccentric British ex-pat living in Albuquerque, best known as a popular TV chef. Rudd plays Paul, his quick-witted, quick-to-anger producer and partner. The pair bicker like an old married couple – that’s who they are. Sick of the sight of each other, they wouldn’t change a thing. Living an extravagant life in their mansion home, surrounded by kitsch statuettes and animal skin rugs, they know how to spend their hard-earned cash, which comes in handy when Bill (Jack Gore) lands on their doorstep, the 10 year-old grandson of Erasmus. The two learn that Bill’s father, Beau (Jake McDorman) has been arrested, and Bill will be staying with them for the foreseeable future.
Paul is straight up from the start – he had a troublesome childhood brought up by his hateful parents, concluding that he’ll be an equally awful father-figure and that Bill should be handed over to Child Protective Services. Erasmus, taking pity on the kid, argues that this might be his chance at trying again, admitting that he wasn’t the most present dad for Beau. They soon take a shine to Bill, ensuring he makes friends at school and finishes his homework, even warming to his dinner of choice (Taco Bell). But when Beau arrives back on the scene, Erasmus and Paul’s new loving lifestyle may come to an end faster than they thought.
Written and directed by Andrew Fleming (the man behind the 1996 teen cult classic The Craft), Ideal Home is far from ideal. Its jokes fall flat, the pacing’s messy, and the narrative is predictable. To add to this, Coogan and Rudd aren’t on top form either, but let’s just blame this on the dull storyline and dry quips. It’s also not very clear why this particular pair have been cast as gay men; if Hollywood is attempting to portray diversity and inclusivity on screen, maybe it should make an actual attempt at it and cast LGBTQ actors. Erasmus and Paul are played as the ‘gay man’ stereotype, and knowing that both Coogan and Rudd are heterosexual, this just reads as lazy and offensive. Hollywood, do better. And don’t even get me started on the New Mexico/gay cowboy outfit touches (Stetson and spurs included)…
Aside from all of the above, Ideal Home takes a hit at bringing a sweet, wholesome story to a wider audience. It’s main message is clear – sexual orientation doesn’t matter when it comes to bringing up a child, all that matters is that you love each other. At this point in political history (looking at you, America), it’s poignant, especially with the end credits montage of same-sex parents and their children, smiles radiating from the screen. However, everything that’s wrong with the film chips away at what Fleming tries to say. In hindsight, this may have worked better as a family drama, focusing on the story of an LGBTQ couple and their child. As a comedy, it feels like we’re almost welcomed to laugh at Erasmus and Paul – not cool.
Despite the big name draw, when it comes to Ideal Home you’re better off staying at home.