This is why I go into most movies not expecting anything good. Because most of the comedies that have been out this year has been a total shocker of how much fun they turned out to be in the end. Instant Family didn’t sound like it was gonna be, but this is the kind of PG-13 family movie that’s perfect around the Thanksgiving season.
What’s the Story: Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) are a couple that renovates flip houses for a living that decided to start a family by becoming part of foster care adoption. They wanted to bring home a small child, but they now have to raise three kids, including 15-year-old Lizzie (Isabela Moner) and her two siblings, Juan (Gustavo Quiro) and Lita (Julianna Gamiz). Learning that taking care of three seems like an impossible task, they must learn about the importance of parenthood along the way.
Before walking into Instant Family, this was one of those comedies that I originally wasn’t planning on checking out. Why? Because the trailer didn’t grab me and it’s from director Sean Anders, known for Daddy’s Home and its much worse sequel. But what changed my mind? Some mutual friends actually liked it, even loving it. And it was pretty much a good sign that this was moved up three months from its original release date indicating that it might be worth it. But to my shock, Instant Family is pleasantly enjoyable.
This was based on Anders’ own life and it shows in the script written by him and John Morris. Instead of making this like Daddy’s Home or Problem Child, this was more on the lines of a more friendly version of Role Models, in my opinion. Once they bring these kids to their home, I was expecting this to be annoying with them acting crazy for the first half, and it wasn’t for the most part. Sure, they are hectic, but that’s what parenting is all about on different occasions. And what I also liked about the story is that it didn’t rely on poop jokes at some point.
Wahlberg and Byrne have some excellent chemistry with each other. Both provide to be superior in the comedy genre before but they worked very well together as this married couple who got more than what the bargained for. We need Byrne in entertainment then we did a few years ago.
Moner was the one who I wasn’t so sure about. Nothing that she did in the past proved me that she can be a good teenage star. But I honestly dug her role in here as Lizzie. Because she’s been basically taking care of her brother and sister without her mom around, she’s smart and knows the basics of foster care, but she truly cares for her siblings.
Other supporting players include Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro as the social workers of the foster care program and both have their moments of hilarity. And then you have Margo Martindale and Julie Hagerty as Pete and Ellie’s respective mothers.
I was also really shocked by how much I laughed throughout this, especially in the first half. Most of the jokes are aimed towards adults more than kids since it’s PG-13, but they were well written. Anytime there’s a scene involving funny comic Iliza Shlesinger, where she plays a woman who wants to adopt someone with certain skills, she kills me with how it feels familiar to a certain sports drama.
Instant Family, fortunately, didn’t become a manipulative at any given point. Nothing was trying to make you feel sad for these characters forcing out emotions, but these are characters that you honestly care for in the good and bad times. Even Wahlberg made a good observation about he and Byrne acting like they will become “white saviors” when taking in Latino kids. I’m glad that was brought up because always an annoyance when it’s being discussed in movies. It gives us a lighthearted story that can relatable to parents and with people who are a part of the foster care system. The drama doesn’t hold anything back, and I respect that. This also doesn’t paint foster care as a bad thing but in a positive light.
Problem-wise, it did start to drag going into the third act, which made me wonder why it was two hours long. And can it become predictable? Sure, but I didn’t necessarily mind it that much since it left me invested.
In the end, Instant Family is one of the biggest surprises of 2018. My cousin and I walked out thinking it wasn’t as bad as we thought. Looks like Anders finally made a good comedy that didn’t make me groan during its entirety as he made a movie that’s gonna find an audience. Is it weird to make me consider adopting when I get a little older? Makes you think.
Instant Family turns out to be a surprisingly entertaining comedy that has a good meaningful message while also having good performances, humor, and not afraid to be serious.