Instant Family has a whole lot of heart. Director Sean Anders crafts a touching story about the difficulties and profound happiness adopting children. The film uses comedy to highlight the issues of the foster care system. Most prospective parents are looking for infants. They don’t want the burden of raising “troubled” older children, especially teens. Instant Family is a testament to the people who care for abandoned children. It takes true compassion and love to embark on this journey.
Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) are a successful couple in suburban California. Their business flipping houses has finally taken hold. They are able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Ellie argues with her competitive sister (Allyn Rachel) about having children. She was so busy working, the thought of a baby seemed ridiculous. Ellie goes online to research fostering children. She is deeply moved.
They decide to get certified as foster parents. The program directors (Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro) puts them in a group of hilariously diverse couples. At a family fair to meet the children, Pete and Ellie accidentally cross paths with fifteen-year-old Lizzy (Isabela Moner). Sassy and whip-smart, she and her younger siblings (Gustavo Quiroz, Julianna Gamiz) were taken away from a drug addict mother. Pete and Ellie take the plunge. They decide to foster all three children.
Instant Family has cute moments, but does not sugarcoat the experience. The children have been traumatized. Pete and Ellie struggle mightily to deal with their problems. Lizzy essentially became the mother of her siblings. Headstrong and angry, she refuses to let “pretend mom” tell her what to do. Overburdened and exhausted, Pete and Ellie wonder if they’ve made a huge mistake. But with every difficulty, the children inch closer to trusting them. Their bonds grow, and a wonderful connection is established. A child’s potential is directly correlated to their environment. Instant Family shows how love and nurturing transforms children’s lives.
The children’s mother (Joselin Reyes) plays a big part in the story. Her subplot is the heavy dose of truth and realism. Foster children do not forget their parents, even though they may have been neglected or abused. Lizzy loves her mother, despite what has happened. Pete and Ellie must deal with her parental rights as well. This is the most sobering aspect of the film. It reminds the audience of the difficult decisions family courts make.
From Paramount Pictures, Instant Family is the third collaboration between Sean Anders and Mark Wahlberg. The pair previously made Daddy’s Home and Daddy’s Home 2, two films I did not like. Instant Family is a superior effort in every regard. It strikes the right tone between comedy and drama to effectively deliver its message. There are so many children languishing in the system. The majority are not cute, unproblematic infants. Instant Family applauds those brave enough to foster and adopt.