Imagine if the high-concept comedy Three Men and a Baby met the biting British sitcom Vicious. You’d have the gawky but charming Paul Rudd and Steve Coogan jaunt Ideal Home. Rudd and Coogan star as a couple of wealthy, gay gourmands, whose life of garish, drug-fueled dinner parties is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of the grandson they never knew they had. Hijinks and shade throwing ensue.
Erasmus (Coogan) is a TV personality who hosts a “cookery show” called Ideal Home. Paul (Rudd) is his producer and romantic partner of 10 years. As on Vicious, their brand of banter is barbed. Regarding a cowboy-costumed Erasmus on a horse, Paul groans, “He’s like the gay Butch Cassidy. Except not butch.” Their sophisticated friends chortle over such comments, but their relationship feels ever on the edge of self-destruction. Then along comes the baby. Well, not a baby. Bill (Jack Gore) is a freckled, frowning 10-year-old boy who lands on the doorstep of their chic Santa Fe home once his dad is arrested for abusing a sex worker. Naturally, Bill arrives with a hotel bible and a bag of cocaine.
Erasmus is bemused by the idea that the son he accidentally fathered decades ago had a child of his own. It’s as if it’s a hilarious anecdote to be added to their repertoire. But Paul is distraught. “We can’t have a kid!” He exclaims, “We can’t even have a Yorkshire Terrier. Thank God for that coyote. Problem solved!” But despite Paul’s protests and Bill’s devoted disinterest in school, his new granddads, or even the lavish meals they like to prepare (he prefers Taco Bell), a meaningful bond blossoms. Could parenthood be the glue that keeps these two ever-feuding lovers from falling apart? Eh.
Written and directed by Andrew Fleming (The Craft), Ideal Home is at its best when it’s Rudd and Coogan going at each other with ruthless wit. Coogan is cozy in his niche as a self-important posh clown. (Wearing a raccoon fur coat to a Taco Bell, he sincerely requests the wine list.) Rudd wields his acerbic and outrageous one-liners with a smirking confidence but glows with a reluctant tenderness as Paul and Bill bond. Plus, with a sharp fade haircut, summer scarf, and well-groomed beard, Rudd is a dizzying new version of hot. Even doing his signature goofy dance moves, he’s so distractingly swoon-worthy that you might be tempted to overlook the film’s rough edges.
Ideal Home is enamored with its caustic yet charismatic couple. And rightly so! Coogan and Rudd have a sparking chemistry that feels lived-in yet electric. But when it comes to Bill, things flat-line. He’s thinly drawn, a stoic kid with a tragic background. And his dad (Jake McDorman) exists only to look sketchy and play a cardboard cutout of an antagonist, who threatens to take Bill away from the home and security his granddads have created for him. The movie stumbles as it tries to fall into the clunky lockstep of family-comedies that strive to deliver a heart-warming PSA message. Similarly, some of the jokes about these grandparents being gay feel—not offensive—but awkwardly dated. A bit about porn parody titles is so tired that even Coogan and Rudd seem bored by it. And a class presentation where Bill recites what slurs you shouldn’t use in front of gay people feels more forced than provocative or funny.
Ideal Home is uneven, flipping from sardonic to sincere with a jarring speed. Still, it’s funny enough. It’s sweet with a bit of bitterness. And if you can’t get enough of Paul Rudd, you’ll revel in his sophisticated look, snarking humor, and tender turn. All in all, this is a solid pick for a quiet night at home.
Ideal Home is now in theaters and on digital.