REVIEW: Instant Family

Based on director/writer Sean Anders experience with foster care adoption, Instant Family follows Pete and Lizzie (played by Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne) as they go from happy humble house flippers, to parents.

The title is really a misnomer here as the film shows the process as anything but quick. There’s drama/craziness all the way down: in the foster care classes, as the kids get used to their new home, in the actual courtroom, etc. It’s still funny despite the serious subject matter (although a few jokes are mean spirited stinkers in my opinion) and it has a heart the size of Kansas.

Unlike the typical feel good based-on-a-true-story flick, there’s a sense of bitter sweetness to the ending I found quite refreshing. To be fair it’s mostly sugar, but it doesn’t pretend like every problem the kids/parents have is solved by adoption, and conveys a sense of new beginnings rather than finality. The characters in the film are still pained and a little broken, but they’re together, and that makes the harder aspects of life a little softer. Messages about our capacity to love and empathize will never get old to me and that’s basically all Instant Family is.

What really sold me on this message were the subplots. What starts as stereotypical is given a bit of nuance as time goes on. The youngest daughter getting over her potato chip obsession. A quirky but tense thanksgiving dinner. Grandma Sandy. It brings a sense of realism even though the tone is melodramatic.

I think I enjoyed these little side stories even more than the real plot. I don’t know whether that’s a bad thing or a good thing from an artistic perspective, but regardless, it made me smile.

I also gotta applaud Rose Byrne for her performance in this one. She’s so sincere and committed in the role that it elevates everyone around her. There’s this grocery store scene where her character is freakin’… taming these wild children as a group of onlookers judge her. It’s poetry. Honest. I just wanted to leap in and help her out, ya know?

At times it gets really monotone in its presentation. Flat camerawork and a few puzzling needle drops work against the film’s favor. Honestly if those aspects were handled even a little bit smarter I could probably bump this up to a 3, but as it stands, this movie is decidedly average.

You could do a lot worse with your movie night…but still.