Drawn from director Sean Anders’ own personal experiences, this contrived but kind comedy has enough nice performances and earnest laughs to compensate for its essential gooiness.
Apparently lightly censored to land a PG Rating here, like Anders’ previous Daddy’s Home films, and indeed about 99% of movies ever made, Instant Family is all about family.
A seemingly happy and conveniently well-off married couple, Ellie (Rose Byrne) and Pete Wagner (Mark Wahlberg from the Daddy’s Home outings), have a flourishing home restoration business, but the fact that they’ve never had kids has recently made them both a little edgy. When Ellie looks at a foster kid website she starts weeping, and Pete tries not to get sucked in but does, all to the sweet tune of no less than Wings’ Let ‘Em In.
While taking a foster parent course presided over by Karen (Octavia Spencer) and Sharon (Tig Notaro), our heroes meet some of the other hopefuls, including a pair of Bible-bashers (Joy Jacobson and Gary Weeks), a funny gay couple (Hampton Fluker and Randy Havens), and a weird and uptight single Mom named October (Iliza Shlesinger) who’s oddly obsessed with the Oscar-winning flick The Blind Side.
When Ellie and Pete decide that they want to foster one of the typically-ignored teens, they choose the troubled Latino Lizzie (actor/singer Isabela Moner), but she comes complete with a teary brother named Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and loud little sister Lita (Julianna Gamiz), so the Wagners go home with three kids instead of just the one. They all have a honeymoon period where the young ‘uns are settling in and everyone’s in a good mood, but naturally this turns sour and the going gets tough, as Anders demonstrates that fostering and adopting children can be difficult, even for prosperous and glowingly well-adjusted people like Pete and Ellie.
The sort of slightly cheesy comedic drama you could really hate yourself in the morning for enjoying the night before, this is a movie where no matter how hard you try to hate it, the thing just keeps on bouncing back with an amusing joke or some sharply-observed line. It certainly helps that Rose, Mark and Isabela are so charming. There’s also some pro-pensioner humour offered by Grandmas Margo Martindale (as Pete’s tough Mom Sandy) and Julie Hagerty (as Ellie’s peculiar Mom Jan, and a long way from Flying High!).
And exactly why are there so many movies about family? Well, do you really have to ask?
Instant Family (PG) is in cinemas from January 10