Instant Family is a dramedy about a couple who can’t have kids. They end up adopting a trio of siblings and becoming a family of five overnight. Big on laughs and even bigger on heart, this is a welcome addition to any holiday lineup, and a perfect date movie for parents or established couples.
Director and co-writer Sean Anders (Daddy’s Home, Sex Drive,) deftly portrays details borrowed from his own personal story of being a foster father. The best skill that he brings to the table is the ability to take the wild and crazy scenes and normalize them so that the viewers can relate them to their own wild and crazy family moments. Elements of Instant Family hit home, while even the laughs genuinely ring true, like Parenthood for the next generation.
Mark Wahlberg (Daddy’s Home, Ted,) plays Pete. He is a normal guy who buys fixer-upper broken homes and makes them better. This is also an allegory for the entire movie, as they take in fixer-upper kids and try to make them better as well.
Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids, Spy,) plays Pete’s wife Ellie. The brains of the well-intentioned couple is not stereotypically smart that she makes Pete seem goofy, but you can really feel for her when she cringes through Pete’s awkward ‘new dad moments.’
Isabela Moner (Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado, Transformers: The Last Knight,) makes a good case for why some child actors go on to become major stars. She draws a surprising range of emotion as Lizzy, the eldest of the three siblings who get adopted. She has been acting as a surrogate mom for her little brother and sister, up until now.
When she first arrives at Pete and Ellie’s home, she is helpful and respectful. But her teenage nature soon enters the picture and she acts more like what she really is: a teenager. You can’t help but sympathize with her plight of navigating difficult teen years without the stable support of a parent figure in her life. But it’s also easy to see her antics and want to sit her down for a lecture about life.
Pete and Ellie quickly go through the ropes of parental life with their instant family, zooming from zero to sixty without the learning curve that most parents take to make informed decisions. What follows is gritty, but through a comic lens – like being able to laugh about a tough situation even in the middle of it.
Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro play adoption counselors who allow for comic relief during what would otherwise be terse scenes explaining the problems of racism and the concept of being a ‘White Savior.’ This is great way for the audience to really understand the backbone of this film, especially when they may shy away from any sort of ‘message’ in a Hollywood type movie where they came for the laughs, and the feels.
All the minor characters in Instant Family have been given enough to work with to be memorable. Much to their credit, the supporting cast never tries to outshine the stars, but lends an affable air of familiarity in a movie that’s about human connection.
Hilarious and heartwarming, Instant Family is the type of instant hit for any adult with heart. Fans of the Daddy’s Home series will enjoy the laughs that Anders and Wahlberg deliver again, but ultimately the comedy may be a little too smart for the mass market to sink their teeth into.
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