Steve Coogan is Erasmus, a culinary celebrity and host of the titular TV show Ideal Home. Paul Rudd is (conveniently) Paul, producer of Erasmus’ show as well as his partner of many years. After spending a good chunk of their lives working and living together, the magic has started to disappear for this middle-aged couple, especially for Paul who is at the end of his tether with Erasmus’ indulgent approach to life. The two are forced to get it together however, when a young boy who’s reluctant to reveal his name (Jack Gore) turns up in the middle of a party to let know Erasmus that he’s his estranged grandson and will be staying with them from now on.
Ideal Home starts off with a bit of an obstacle to overcome by having two well-known straight leads playing a bickering gay couple. Obviously it shouldn’t matter, but because of your familiarity with them it’s hard not to worry they aren’t simply doing a straight man’s caricature rather than something authentic. It’s an unfortunate issue as it’s a problem that mostly exists in the viewer’s head, but it’s distracting nonetheless. This is especially true in the early stages of the film, before you really get to know Erasmus for the aloof oddball that he is and assume it’s just Coogan doing one of his impressions.
These problems do subside quite quickly once the movie gets past its opening act and grows into the fun little comedy that it is. The humour can be a little safe at times, but the introduction of a child into their lavish lifestyle as well Paul and Erasmus’ constant quibbling make for plenty of laughs. I was initially worried Ideal Home’s comedic conceit was going to be all about a gay couple trying to raise a kid, but, refreshingly, their orientation doesn’t play to heavily into it. Rather, the movie finds its fun in the dynamic between the three members of its oddball family.
Rudd is easily one of the most likable leads around, and is no less charming here. Though he’s very much the straight man (perhaps a poor choice of words) to Erasmus’ antics, his pent up frustration with his partner gives the comedic veteran plenty to work with. As mentioned, Coogan is initially a little more problematic, but it’s a problem that resolves itself once you realize it’s his character that’s an oddball and not lazy acting. While Erasmus can be pretty selfish and ambivalent at times, there’s something undoubtedly endearing about Coogan’s downtrodden delivery and the character’s blissful ignorance.
Funny as Ideal Home can be, it’s a little hindered by writer/director Andrew Fleming’s need to cater for more conservative audiences as well. The movie likes to tease at being a bit more uncouth, just enough I suspect for older viewers to find risqué, but is never bold enough to go beyond some well timed cursing and jokes about parody porn. Dramatically, Ideal Home is lacking a similar punch. While there’s some good material and you certainly feel invested in this newfound family keeping together, the conflict is all just a bit too been-there-done-that to have any lasting impact. The ending in particular is a problem, with the movie building up to what feels like should be a third act, but before our leads get a chance to take charge the script throws a big ctrl-z at you and everyone continues on their merry way.
It’s a shame that Ideal Home seems so unwilling to leave its comfort zone to try and become something a bit more memorable, but if a movie is going to skate by on its leads, you could do a lot worse than Rudd and Coogan. Even if it’s not a must see, the warm and fuzzy tone and winning characters make Ideal Home an easy recommendation.
SCREEN REALM SCORE: ★★★☆☆
‘Ideal Home’ opened in Australia on June 21 and opens in New Zealand on July 5.