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D: Andrew Fleming / 91m

Cast: Steve Coogan, Paul Rudd, Allison Pill, Jake McDorman, Jack Gore, Evan Bittencourt, Kate Walsh, Jesse Luken

Erasmus Brumble (Coogan) is a well-known TV culinary expert. He’s also vain, self-centred, self-aggrandising, emotionally obtuse, and gay. His partner, Paul (Rudd), is also the producer of his TV show. They bicker, they argue, they fight, and they treat each other with as little respect as possible. When a ten year old boy (Gore) turns up at their home unexpectedly, they’re both surprised to learn that he’s Erasmus’s grandson. The boy is there because his father, Beau (McDorman), has been arrested, and despite the fact that Beau and Erasmus are estranged, Beau has sent his son there because it’s better than the boy being with social services. Unprepared for being parents, even for a potentially temporary period, the trio find themselves bonding into a family unit, even though Paul does all the work, Erasmus takes all the credit, and the boy will only eat at Taco Bell. As they adjust to each other, they learn things that allow them to grow as individuals (well, not so much with Erasmus). But when Beau is released from prison and wants his son back, what was meant to be temporary, now feels like it should be permanent…

Existing in a broad, farcical fantasy world where parenting roles are fluid and ill-defined (and yet somehow they work), Ideal Home is not a movie to be taken at all seriously. It has a positive message to make about the aptitude or suitability of gay couples to raise children, but it’s a message that’s buried below a welter of crass humour, egregious stereotyping (Erasmus’s caricature nature is only rescued by the quality of Coogan’s performance), a healthy/unhealthy (you decide) disregard for authority, and the idea that the nuclear family unit is something that’s become a bit old-fashioned. It’s not a movie that’s trying to blaze a trail for same-sex parenting, but in its own blink-and-you’ll-miss-it way, it is putting forward the idea that it’s no longer something for certain people to be afraid of. That said, if you’re easily offended by references to homosexuality in the context of raising a child (or at all), then this isn’t the movie for you. Maybe go and see Hereditary (2018) if you don’t want to watch a dysfunctional couple trying to make sense of being parents… oh, wait a minute…

Cutely delivered message aside, what this movie is most definitely about is making its audience laugh, and this it achieves with ease thanks to the quality of Fleming’s script, the boisterous partnership of Coogan and Rudd, and a kind of subdued anarchy that suits the material well. But most of all it’s laugh out loud funny: coarse, irreverent, near the knuckle on occasions, and unapologetically profane. The bickering between Erasmus and Paul is beautifully constructed, with the kind of wounding remarks made on both sides that can only come out of a long-term relationship, and Coogan and Rudd deliver these broadsides with gusto, dismantling the couple’s bond while maintaining the deep love they have for each other. In the middle of all this, Gore is a moppet with quiet attitude, deadpan for long stretches and more than a match for his two more experienced co-stars. Alas, the same can’t be said for McDorman, whose role as the boy’s father is more deus ex machina than fully developed character, and Pill, whose portrayal of a social worker is restricted to three short scenes. Otherwise it’s all about Erasmus’s annoying man-child, and Paul’s long-suffering semi-adult fighting and challenging each other and being won over by the growing appreciation for their “efforts” by a de facto orphan. And here, that’s no bad thing at all…

Rating: 7/10 – the drama that props up the comedy is too straightforward to make any impact, so it’s a good job that Fleming and his stars are on such good form in the laughs department; avoiding the kind of icky sentimentality that can so easily scupper a movie of this kind, Ideal Home is often lightweight in tone and lightweight in terms of the material, but when it’s funny, oh boy is it funny.

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