A comedy with heart and a message is always a welcome thing and Instant Family is exactly what it needs to be. If you watch this movie like any other comedy it can come off as disposable, popcorn cinema forgotten as soon as the credits roll. That would be the opinion of someone who missed the point entirely. From a purely comedic standpoint Instant Family is a passable, mostly family friendly experience. This is however only a piece of the overall message of love and acceptance, even when past situations would tell you that nothing ever works out. It’s about the funny things in life without question but it also shows the shortcomings of such a convoluted system where so much innocence gets lost. It’s a showcase of sacrifice of personal freedom in many ways and just how fulfilling that path can truly be if you only let it.
This film takes on a whole other meaning when you learn that it’s based heavily on the experiences of the writer/director Sean Anders and what he and his wife went through as they navigated unfamiliar territory. Going from no children of their own to three of them running rampant in their home is a story fascinating enough that demands the cinematic treatment. I give you, Instant Family.
As I spoke with the director himself he explained that a major draw of Mark Wahlberg for him is the everyday, regular guy that Wahlberg still manages to be despite his vast stardom. He approaches these odd, uncomfortable, sometimes awkward moments with a sense of realism that Anders cherishes. Alongside Wahlberg is his movie wife Rose Byrne who delivers a strong performance of a woman so desperate for connection but still having to manage her own selfishness. Together they convincingly weigh the pros and cons of such a drastic life change. When they agree all is bright but it’s in the moments of disagreement, the moments of pure uncertainty that real scenes of humanity shine the brightest.
While trying to capture the realities of fostering and adopting children is a main focus of the film, the levity of the more intimate moments, the more embarrassing occurrences is the other main motivating factor that adds to an already interesting story. Wahlberg and Byrne shine in these moments as well. Their chemistry is hilarious as the doubts of each reflect upon their spouse in some truly ridiculous but honest encounters between them and their newly acquainted children. To support them in the lighter scenes of the story we are given hilarious performances from stand-up comedians Tom Segura, Iliza Shlesinger and Tig Notaro. Each so different in their approach but all give noteworthy performances that demand a chuckle or two or ten. A personal highlight for me is Iliza Shlesinger who emulates Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side without knowing it making for some of the funniest moments of the film.
All this talk of fostering and adopting I can’t fail to mention the children of this story. Lizzy (Isabela Moner), Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and Lita (Julianna Gamiz) are the embodiment of your everyday children. Now this doesn’t mean they are any less extraordinary but that’s kind of the point. Despite being in need of fostering and possibly adoption they are normal children who need and do what children do. They are equals parts lovable and frustrating. You can imagine hugging them or choking them in equal measure. You know, children. As they test the patience of their new foster parents something happens despite their best effort, a camaraderie begins to form and their family of three is, whether they want it to or not, becoming a family of five.
If you look past the more common moments of light hearted silliness you will see a movie that is funny but never loses its message. To accept the seemingly unwanted into one’s life is nothing short of selfless even if every fiber of your being is doubting that very decision. Created with a tender but honest approach from cast and crew, Instant Family is a story both familiar and new and equally wonderful because of both.
To gain a new perspective of this film as I did, please read my interview with the director of Instant Family. Learning of why certain decisions were made, from story decisions to casting decisions, it opens up the film in unexpected ways. It made me appreciate the film more than my initial reaction of this just being another run-of-the-mill comedy.
Rated PG-13 For: thematic elements, sexual material, language and some drug references
Runtime: 119 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Tom Segura, Iliza Shlesinger, Tig Notaro, Octavia Spencer, Isabela Moner, Gustavo Quiroz, Julianna Gamiz
Directed By: Sean Anders
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 3.5
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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