I first fell in love with Mark Wahlberg back in 1991 when he and the Funky Bunch rocked mine and everybody else’s world with ‘Good Vibrations’. 13 years later, I fell in love with Mark Wahlberg the actor thanks to a little gem of a film known as ‘I Heart Huckabees’. Since then, thanks to the slew of Will Ferrell movies, his prolific Peter Berg collaborations and those god awful ‘Transformers’ turds, I’ve occasionally forgotten said admiration - but luckily for me and the plethora of fellow Marky Mark fans, our boy has come good once again with ‘Instant Family’. I, like most were weary when the first trailer broke - a ridiculously good looking white couple adopting a trio of Hispanic siblings - Yeesh! But again, fortune has favoured the loyal, that and sooooo many more trepidations including but not limited to “the Hollywood treatment” were addressed, navigated and I’m pleased to say come out on top. And Rose Byrne is just awesome regardless (in my universe the 2014 ‘Annie’ remake doesn’t exist).
Pete (Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne, ‘Bad Neighbours’) are a child-free married couple who have found success through house-flipping and enjoy the occasional round of golf in their free time. When the idea of having children is brought up by Ellie’s reproductively-challenged sister, Ellie investigates foster care with a reluctant Pete in tow. Don’t worry, he comes around - and then some. After the training thanks to the hilarious duo Karen and Sharon (Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro) and inspirational speeches an outspoken teenager Lizzy (Isabela Moner, ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’) piques their interest, there’s just one catch - she comes with two younger siblings. And so the instant family is born, with two unprepared parents, a little girl who eats nothing but potato chips and throws tantrums left and right, a tweenage boy with absolutely no environmental awareness, and a recalcitrant, angsty teenager with trust issues. It’s a time for everyone to learn something, lose something, and love someone.
This film has great humour, great empathy and great depth for a topic that is difficult to navigate and balance.
This film has great humour, great empathy and great depth for a topic that is difficult to navigate and balance. While it does get the Hollywood goggles, it still does its best to highlight the unpleasant and difficult side of fostering from both the parent's and the child’s side. It also highlights modern families and doesn’t shy away from topical and what may seem like politically incorrect moments. Through the use of a fostering support group, this film is able to cover a dozen different stories in one swoop. This is actually quite clever, and it works to perfection. Giving us snippets of different characters and family experiences, the audience is given a chance to laugh, cry and learn along with those onscreen, all with a spoonful of sugar.
‘Instant Family’ ebbs and flows with beautiful timing between hilarious moments and those that are either gut-wrenchingly emotional or that much needed pull on the heart-strings. Writer/director Sean Anders, who also made one of the funniest and highly under-rated teen comedies ‘Sex Drive’ (2008), has proven time and time again that this is his gift. He did it in ‘She’s Out of My League’ (2010) and ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ (2010) too, among others. Yet ‘Instant Family’ is by far the jewel in his growing crown, and once again Wahlberg lays down his comedic chops - the highlight being a scene where he compares foster kids to rescue dogs, where Byrne plays more of the straight, maternal type with a couple choice moments of her own.
And since this website won’t allow a 3 3/4 star rating, I’m standing by my decision.