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Review: Instant Family (2018)

Instant Family (2018)

Directed by: Sean Anders

Premise: Based on a true story. A married couple (Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne) take in three siblings as foster children with the intent of adopting them.

What Works: Instant Family is the story of an unconventional family taking shape through the fostering and adoption process. At some level this is a commercial for foster parenting and the movie not-so-subtly makes its argument but integrates the rhetoric into the story well enough that we don’t feel lectured to. As part of the film’s agenda, Instant Family takes the audience through the fostering and adoption process as experienced by a couple played by Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne but also through several other adoptive parents that the protagonists encounter in a foster parent support group. The movie finds a lot of comedy and drama in the struggles of new parents; Wahlberg and Byrne’s characters take in three kids at once and they are overwhelmed by the challenges and the way the children upset their status quo. Wahlberg and Byrne are a likable on-screen duo. They are believable as a married couple and they make for a very funny comedy team with Wahlberg and Byrne comically bouncing off of each other. Instant Family also benefits from the casting of Isabela Moner as the eldest of the three siblings. Moner’s character has played the role of parent to her considerably younger brother and sister all while going through adolescence and that makes for a volatile relationship between this teenager and her foster parents. Moner channels those qualities through her performance and she gets many of the key emotional moments; in many respects, Moner is responsible for the film working as well as it does. Instant Family is designed to be a heartwarming, feel good movie and it does that but the film earns its tears because of the difficult relationship between Wahlberg and Byrne and Moner’s characters. This movie hits all the right emotional beats and it will give its intended audience exactly what they are looking for.

What Doesn’t: Instant Family sometimes feels calculated. Rather than embracing the chaos and messiness that is inherent to life with kids, Instant Family forces the disorder of life into a neat and consumable confection. As a result it feels artificial in a way that is common to polished pieces of entertainment. Instant Family also suffers from some weird tonal shifts. The movie alternates between comedy and drama and humorous moments sometimes come on the heels of a heavy dramatic moment. This lessens the impact of the drama, sometimes cheapening it or subverting its impact.

Bottom Line: Instant Family is a satisfying mix of comedy and drama. This is a nice movie that is specifically designed to appeal to its audience. The film suffers from some tonal missteps but overall it succeeds in doing exactly what it is intended to do.

Episode: #728 (December 9, 2018)