Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne deliver charismatic performances in Paramount Pictures Instant Family from director Sean Anders. Wahlberg and Byrne portray Pete and Ellie Wagner, childless spouses who have great success in flipping houses. After starting working on their latest home renovation project, the Wagners flirt with the idea of becoming foster parents. The Wagner’s have to first past a parenting class led by Karen (Octavia Spencer) and Sharon (Tig Notaro), which they do.
While they initially hope to foster a younger child, the Wagners instead select the teenage Lizzy (Isabella Moner) who comes with two younger siblings Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and Lita (Julianna Gamiz). As the couple becomes parents, we go on their journey with them.
The initial trailers for Instant Family somewhat paint the film as a thruway comedy, but in hindsight, Instant Family goes a bit deeper than say a Lifetime template. John Morris and Sean Anders script, which is inspired by Anders own adoption process experiences, treat the subject with heart. One of the things I enjoyed the most about their screenplay was nothing is sugar-coated. When Ellie first meets Lita, the foul language that Lita delivers is heartbreaking, as it’s apparent that Lita has been the victim of this type of dialogue.
The script also gives heartbreaking statistics on what happens to kids who age out of the system, as well briefly hinting on the people who foster strictly for a paycheck. The arc for the kids and the foster parents is also one of the highlights of the film. The director’s choice to showcase that trust isn’t automatic no matter what your age is, after experiencing upsets in life, gives Instant Family a real-life feel.
There’s also some laugh out loud moments which work well. As the Wagners, Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne both deliver winning performances. Wahlberg who always possess a cool everyman swagger in his roles shows vulnerability as Pete. While there are moments where’s he’s portrayed as the good cop parent to Rose Byrne’s bad cop parent, the frustration that Wahlberg shows is honest and natural.
Rose Byrne is also quite good as the mom who wants to the kids to show her the same love and affection that they show Wahlberg’s characters. When it to the acting talent of the children as Juan and Lita both Gustavo Quiroz and Julianna Gamiz were enjoyable. The kids aren’t written as overly cute but as real-life children. While I did want to see a bit of Gustavo Quiroz’s, Juan fleshed out more, given some of his character’s personality traits.
The most energetic performance of the kids though would have to be Isabella Moner as Lizzy. Moner holds her own in the scenes when she has to go toe to toe with Byrne and Wahlberg. I genuinely felt for Moner’s character throughout the movie, and I was able to identify with her growing pains.
Much more layered than its trailers suggest Instant Family succeeds not only as a family dramedy but also as a tribute to anyone who has the courage to adopt. I highly recommend making the time for Instant Family this holiday season.
FINAL GRADE B+