Ideal Home ****
Starring: Steve Coogan, Paul Rudd, Jack Gore, Alison Pill, Jake McDorman Director: Andrew Fleming Country: USA Premiering on Netflix this month is new comedy Ideal Home, which sees comic actors Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd joining forces for the first time. Playing a bickering gay couple, their depictions toe the line of caricature, but manage to land just on the right side of it, making a fun family comedy about twenty-first century parenthood. Coogan plays Erasmus Brumble, a flamboyant TV chef whose Mexican-inspired lifestyle show is an aspirational must-see for middle class families in America. On set, he bickers with his partner Paul (Rudd); off set, they fight bitterly. But when it is revealed that not only does Erasmus have an estranged son (McDorman), but also a grandson whose name he doesn’t know (Gore), their relationship is pushed to its limits. And when the son goes to prison and the grandson comes to live with them, they have to adapt their glamorous and hedonistic lifestyle in order to become parents for the young boy, especially as a Child Protection Service official (Pill) starts to put the minutiae of their lifestyle under her moral microscope. Coogan and Rudd are both excellent here. Coogan plays this flamboyant archetype with aplomb, initially appearing as a broad theatrical fop, but as the layers peal back and the connection deepens with the boy, we see a vulnerable man whose eccentricities have been assumed to protect himself. Meanwhile, Rudd takes the route of the masculinised gym-pumped trophy boyfriend, whose exaggerated surface masculinity is there to present himself as different but just as significant as his renowned other half. Yes, both assume stereotypically camp characteristics, but these are larger than life characters whose comedy comes from their over-the-top reactions to a world they are not used to. For most of the film’s viewers, what they will see is normality, but the comedy comes from just how removed Erasmus and Paul are from this. Essentially, this is another take on the age-old culture shock movie. The pair are fish out of water and from trying to serve a 9 year-old haute cuisine to stifling the sounds of their lovemaking so the child won’t hear, they learn to parent the hard way. And where their usual dinner guests’ idea of having a difficult life is having to choose between Gucci and Prada, Bill’s life story up to this point is nothing short of tragic. But where a lesser film could have used and abused this for all it’s worth, here it is just gently planted for momentary poignancy and to give perspective beyond the comedy. And child actor Jack Gore perfectly captures the straight-faced stoicism of a young boy exposed to much hardship without loosing his inherent vulnerability. At times some of the gags can be a little obvious, but on the whole this is a tight comedic script that plays on both character and situation for plenty of laughs. Would it have been better with actual LGBT actors? Potentially, but Coogan and Rudd make for hilarious viewing, even if the chemistry is sometimes lacking. But while you have a renowned comedian playing camp for laughs, it doesn’t head toward Brüno territory, where comic criticism is actually just criticism. I defy anyone not to laugh at the bickering of this pair. For a straight to Netflix release, this is a pretty damn good offering! OUT NOW ON NETFLIX.