Our “saviors” are Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne), a cuddly couple that rehabs houses for a living has not been in a rush to start a family. Too busy hoping to be the next couple on “Flip or Flop” or just a lack of interest has stunted any prospects of a bundle of joy any time soon. When Ellie's sister and bone-head brother-in-law crack a few jokes about them committing to kids, Pete and Ellie want to prove it to them so badly that they look into adoption. Just peeking at the adorable happy faces of children melt their hearts, and the prospect of one kid becomes three, since 16-year old Lizzy (Isabela Moner), comes with brother Juan and sister Lita included. This isn't just some house project to work on, this is a big challenge, and Pete and Ellie begin to see that being parents is not as simple as choosing a wall paper.
Instant Family is a wholesome family film, but it's also not good either. A part of what rubbed me the wrong way is the casting choice of Mark Wahlberg as the friendly father. The Patriots Day actor has bounced between macho, heroic true stories with director buddy Peter Berg, and family fluff that he can bring his own kids to see- Daddy's Home and Transformers 5 & 6, specifically. In Instant Family, I'm not sure what his agent is telling him to do here? This is Daddy's Home-light, with Wahlberg desperately trying to change his persona, from the hard bad boy to a cuddly number one dad and it's insufferable. Rose Byrne is always her charming self, delivering almost all of the laughable parts, and then sprinting away from Wahlberg in any sense of believable acting. A lot of hijinks ensues, the family struggles to get along, and eventually a bond is created, but you already knew where this was going.
An equally annoying part of Instant Family is how it wants to address the concept of white saviors. It acknowledges it and then proceeds to be another story about white saviors. And that is only a symptom of this films various problems. The humor in the writing from Anders and John Morris is plastic and sterile, with repeated jokes about The Blind Side, in case you don't laugh the second time around. And then there is the worst part of Instant Family, involving a lame adoption center, with Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro delivering thankless performances, involving group sessions, where everyone can share their adopted child pleasures and pains. Each scene made my eyes roll farther to the back of my head, including various stereotype characters and never a single authentic conversation.
On top of all the problems that Instant Family has, it's just not believable. I am all for a film opening us up to the miracles of adopted families, but I was never buying it. This is a Hallmark Channel movie disguised as a big budget family outing. The cast involved is too good to spend their time with a glorified pamphlet on adoption and audiences would be better suited choosing something else. Trust me, your disappointment would be instant.
1 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: INSTANT FAMILY
STARRING: MARK WAHLBERG; ROSE BYRNE; ISABELA MONER; OCTAVIA SPENCER
DIRECTED BY: SEAN ANDERS
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 1 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
Deep down, Instant Family is a movie that means well. It's an attempt to tell the story of families that make that beautiful choice to adopt and the children that have been a part of the foster care system. Although that effort is thoughtful, what it amounts to is a cheese-ball narrative, concocted out of a self congratulatory situation, and lame family feel-good montages. Instant Family tells the inspired true-story of its director Sean Anders (Daddy's Home), but it doesn’t have a realistic bone in it's entire structure. Instant Family is as bland as instant coffee.