Film Review: Ideal Home

Risqué humor and a well-calibrated Paul Rudd performance help elevate this comedy above lazy, movie-of-the-week plotting.
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Writer-director Andrew Fleming, whose eclectic oeuvre spans from The Craft to Dick to Hamlet 2, has said he based Ideal Home on events in his own life. And the film, revolving around gay couple Erasmus (Steve Coogan) and Paul (Paul Rudd), does evince a genuine empathy for the fraught family situation that it also plays for raucous humor.

Erasmus and Paul, partners at home and on the set of their hit TV cooking show “Ideal Home starring Erasmus Brumble,” have feathered a luxurious nest for themselves in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Erasmus, along the lines of a Bobby Flay or Rachael Ray, is the face of a multimedia food and lifestyle empire, while Paul directs the show behind the scenes.

Companions for ten years, they seem to have a great thing going, despite all outward appearances of being, to say the least, snippy with each other. They argue more than they agree, but they are in accord on one thing: Their work-hard/play-hard lifestyle is no place for kids. So, of course, a kid lands on their doorstep—or, rather, crashes one of their froufrou dinner parties—in the form of the ten-year old grandson, Bill (Jack Gore), that Erasmus didn’t know he had.

The movie shoots for most of its laughs lampooning the partying pair’s inappropriateness as parents, as well as the haute homo pretensions of their scene and hangers-on, including an amusing gal pal, played by Kate Walsh. But Erasmus and Paul, mostly Paul, try to rise to the occasion when the boy’s ne’er-do-well dad, Beau (Jake McDorman), gets locked up and they have to figure out how to put their young charge first.

While Fleming’s script plucks out some sharp and funny details about parenting, foodies and forty/fifty-somethings living like they’re in their twenties, the plot, look and pacing stay predictably within the lines of sudden-parent comedies older than Bad News Bears. It’s no small feat to walk the fine line of warmly espousing accessible lessons about building a family while leaning in the opposite direction of family-friendly. Even though there’s a lovable tyke involved, Ideal Home still works in reams of profanity, akin to a gay Bad Santa. Albeit, this picture isn’t as hilarious as Bad Santa.

Coogan’s dry take on Erasmus’ ostentatious snootiness and self-regard is a good vehicle for the potty-mouthed humor, but the performance doesn’t deliver enough beyond the joke. Part of Paul’s exasperation with his partner is meant to be that Erasmus is always in-character as his larger-than-life TV persona and has a hard time setting that aside to really connect with other people. It would seem here that Coogan also doesn’t step far outside that persona.

For that matter, Rudd isn’t required to stray far beyond his cheerful screen persona, except in Paul’s bursts of anger at Erasmus, which can be searing. Yet, Paul (the character) also is in on the dirty jokes, and Rudd’s supple performance, abetted by great father-son chemistry with Gore, pushes the two-and-a-half-men family tale through the Lifetime melodrama of the film’s third act.

Erasmus and Paul and the film arrive at a reckoning of whether they are better for Bill than irresponsible Beau, or whether the contentious couple are any good for each other at all. It’s a bit of a letdown that Ideal Home, following its fair depiction of Paul and Erasmus learning by necessity to be decent parents, doesn’t flat-out acknowledge that a loving, well-financed home with them would be a great alternative not just to living with Beau but to many other possible outcomes.

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