PARAMOUNT PICTURES (2019)

 

Director: Sean Anders

 

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Isabela Moner, Margo Martindale, Julie Hagerty, Octavia Spencer

Instant usually means good. Food. Photos. Gratification. Karma.

 

2018 wasn’t exactly a year full of super comedies – in fact, it was pretty thin for the entire twelve months. Sean Anders’ Instant Family was vying to start 2019 off on a positive and (crucially) funny note by japing about foster children. What a hoot. Well, that’s not entirely accurate, but still. Teaming Rose Byrne and Marky Mark Wahlberg as doting parents seemed like an odd choice on paper but comedies have a strange habit of making the odd work.

Not wanting to wait any longer, Pete (Wahlberg) and Ellie (Byrne) decide to join the ranks of foster care adoption. They may have wanted one child, however, they manage to end up with three – fifteen-year-old rebel Lizzie (Moner), and her two younger siblings Juan (Quiroz) and Lita (Gamiz). Talk about an instant family. Pete and Ellie are so desperate to succeed in their new role as parents that they overlook the little things that matter. Having to quickly adapt to their new lives, everyone involved has to learn to change their ways if their new family isn’t going to survive. To be honest, that sounds more like a family drama than a comedy, but it is a comedy. OK, it’s a comedic drama, a dramedy. Instant Family manages to combine comedy and drama surprisingly well despite being extremely mawkish and glib – however, the movie knows exactly what it is and tackles it head-on. There’s a refreshing earnestness to how the subject of fostering/adopting is handled and also the effect it has on the parents and children alike. The subject of white parents (“saviours”) adopting Latino kids is also challenged and unexpectedly Instant Family carries a fairly hefty punch. I went in expecting laughs and japes, but I found myself sucked right into the emotional family drama unfolding on-screen (despite its predictable trajectory).

 

Sound the klaxon! I enjoyed Marky Mark in a flick! It doesn’t happen often, but he works here walking the line between serious and fun. Rose Byrne continues to impress once again as the eager yet emotionally bruised mother and her dynamic with Isabela Moner provides the heartbeat of the movie. Fun supporting acts from Olivia Spencer, Tig Notaro, Margo Martindale, and Julie Hagerty bolster the comedic side of the narrative well. Anders leans away from his Daddy’s Home storytelling and goes for something different here. Instant Family isn’t new or ground-breaking, it remains tasteful even during the wackier moments, but sometimes it’s just enjoyable to watch a pleasant movie with good intentions. It’s heartfelt, emotional at times and also funny enough to earn its comedy tag – not a bad trio to have. It’s got a cool soundtrack too, by the way.

 

I had expected Instant Family to be a full-on comedy, however, I’m so very glad that it isn’t just straight-up fart jokes and OTT Ferrell gags. What helps the movie to succeed is its desire to portray the foster/adoption process warts-and-all without ever feeling out of the ordinary in terms of the emotional reactions of the people involved. Having us connect with the characters was the key and throwing in some good comedy as well? Bravo. It’s predictable as hell, sentimental as anything, but Instant Family is also a fun, surprisingly emotional and great flick.

January 18th 2019

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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