“Hey everyone! I’ve got cocaine and birthday cake!” – Erasmus, Ideal Home (2018)
Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd starring as two gay cowboys. It’s like a modern day Brokeback Mountain (2005), but not as Oscar worthy and a bit funnier than you’d first expect. Still, even Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd can make the occasional bad movie. Well, in Rudd’s case it’s more than occasional. Even then, he’s a great actor, and I’m sure it’s films such as Ideal Home which get him the recognition he well and truly deserves.
As expected, both the chemistry and performances of Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd are stellar. They’ve got some extremely great chemistry together which is what surprises me the most. The two leads are from proportionately different backgrounds. Coogan is a comedic legend with some old school tropes, whereas Rudd is fairly new to comedy in that regard. I don’t count Role Models (2008) as a comedy, mainly because it wasn’t very funny. Still, Rudd is a very talented actor and out of him and Coogan he definitely seems to be the funnier of the two. Maybe that’s because his character has a little extra depth than Erasmus, played by Coogan. Coogan has always been a great character actor when he himself writes the role, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.
Comedy is a very difficult genre to review as it is primarily subjective. With Ideal Home though, there are a few jokes that are abundantly unfunny. The opening half of the film is an odd mix and match of seeing which jokes stick. Most of the time the joke really doesn’t work and it’s never really expanded upon. There are of course those rare few one liners and one off jokes that need no explanation. Of course, many of those jokes come from blatantly obvious stereotypes. None of it really comes down to smart writing or a unique style of comedy. But that’s not to say there aren’t a lot of funny bits to the film. There are some oddly niche jokes about topics such as Jeffrey Dahmer in there for no particular reason. It’s funny because it’s off topic and bizzare.
Obviously there are a few stereotypical jokes in there, primarily harmless and often quite funny. Erasmus is portrayed as a violent eccentric with a tendency to lose his temper, whereas Rudd is rather calm in comparison. It’s surprising how much we get out of these two characters when the direction of the movie is so plain and basic. Even then, comedies never really have any specific editing style, they’re all very pastiche of age old comedies from decades before. It’s a consistent formula that only a niche few break the mould of.
Some of the jokes do bomb, as expected. Many a comedy movie has been enjoyable up until a certain point where that one poor joke stops it from being perfect. That for me is a lengthy joke where Steve Coogan just reads the menu to a Taco Bell. The joke here is meant to be that, a professional chef is dining in a fast food restaurant. But it’s not all that funny, especially when you realise it’s just Coogan putting on a weird American accent and pronouncing things wrong. It was jokes such as this, the ones that were predictable from miles away, that really began to whittle away at my patience. Something about it was so bland that it made the film more dull than anything else.
In regard to its tone and direction, there’s nothing special. What confuses me is that, around act two of the film, it becomes a sort of weird drama. There’s some nonsense thrown in about Paul Rudd having a heart attack but then not, and from there you can see they’d began to run out of ideas. It’s not an established plot point, nor is it one that ever comes up again. It feels solely like filler, more than anything else.
However in regard to drama and more serious, underlying tones, the film is very solid. The strain a child puts on a relationship is tried and tested throughout the movie going from exacerbating high to extreme lows. Rudd and Coogan do a convincing job of selling this angle, and it’s one of the better parts of the film. Jack Gore plays Bill, the kid causing the commotion in their lives for the better half of the movie. What surprises me most is that, Gore is quite a good actor. Those that have read my reviews before will understand now that child actors are, for the most part, terrible at what they do. It ruined Stand By Me (1986) for me, so it’s surprising to see that it does remarkably well here.
And that lacking style of comedy is a shame, especially with prominent involvement from Coogan. Coogan has proven himself to have a very successful style of comedy, and it’s a shame that it doesn’t really get any light throughout the movie. Sure, he has one or two exceptional lines throughout, but for the most part they aren’t anything memorable. Maybe it’s because nobody really plays that memorable of a character. In years to come this film won’t be up there with Philomena (2013) or Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2014). But at the same time, it won’t be as forgetful as What Maisie Knew (2012) or A Cock and Bull Story (2005). It’s very run of the mill.
Comedy is unique to everyone. There will be people who loved Ideal Home and those that hated it. But what’s worrying is that comedy should never give a feeling of nothing when it’s finished. That’s exactly what I felt when I concluded my time with this movie. Nothing. No real reason or message to reflect on. Comedy doesn’t always provide that of course, but it should at least provide some incentive to revisit. With this movie, there’s nothing of the sort, and you’d be hard pressed to convince me into giving this movie a second watch. With movies like this, inconsistency can be a directors worst enemy, and that seems to be the case here. There are definite sparks of creativity skimmed throughout, it’s a shame it’s never pieced together.
Still, it could have been a lot worse. I don’t regret watching this movie but at the same time it’s not as if I’d be dying to watch it again. A very run of the mill comedy with the expected tropes and punchlines. Coogan and Rudd have some genuinely brilliant chemistry together, so I would hope they work together in the near future, just on something a bit stronger than this. It’s really nothing great though. There’s a handful of delightfully funny moments, but aside from that there’s very little to be desired.