MOVIE REVIEW | “Instant Family”

Guest Reviewer

Instant Family” provides a bit of a holiday gut check. Perhaps you will embrace the comedic nature of a childless couple fostering three children, including a teen. You enjoy the laughs and wrap the warm fuzzy moments around you like a blanket against a cold world.

Or you could be like Pete (Mark Wahlberg). “Don’t show me those cute little faces,” Pete tells his wife, Ellie (Rose Byrne), when he catches Ellie looking at photos of children available for fostering/adoption. Of course, Pete later slips into the kitchen and opens Ellie’s laptop and studies the photos.

Plenty of funny moments illustrate the challenges facing a couple taking in three kids and trying to learn to parent on the spot, but Wahlberg said the filmmakers were very careful to be respectful of the process. “We always talked about, ‘Is this too much? Is this pushing the envelope a little too far?’ It can be really hard and it’s honest in that way that there are a lot of great times, there are a lot of difficult times, but ultimately, it’s so rewarding and that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about faith for me and family,” Wahlberg told the Associated Press.

04The story is based on director and co-writer Sean Anders‘ own experience of adopting three siblings. “The movie is obviously very important to me because it’s not only my own journey, but it’s also inspired by a lot of stories of real adoptive families that I met along the way,” Anders said.

One criticism of Ander’s script is the use of a fostering family as a comedic foil. Fostering is an important part of caring for these children and should not have been ridiculed in this way. In addition to Wahlberg and Byrne a solid cast delivers a near flawless movie. Octavia Spencer does her usual excellent job and is joined in the case worker task by Tig Notaro. The two play off each other like finalists at Wimbledon.

The best part in the movie goes to Isabela Moner as the teen orphan. She handled the demanding role with amazing skill. Her siblings, Gustavo Quiroz and Julianna Gamiz will steal your heart.

Beyond the fostering/adoption plot – with its extended adoption support group family – are Pete and Ellie’s real extended families complete with competing grandmothers (Margo Martindale and Julie Hagerty) adding depth and credibility to the story.

Rotten Tomatoes rates “Instant Family” a solid 79 percent despite the show’s low box office numbers. “Family” is not some action adventure sequel or comic book fantasy. There are no car chases, although a bad guy does get punched. It could be this message movie may take a week or two to catch the public’s attention. The audience score is an encouraging 87 percent.

“Instant Family” is rated PG-13. The run time is one minute short of two hours. For showtimes see the ad on this page or go to


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