★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki
The foster care system in America is incredibly flawed. Over 400,000 kids are in the foster care system, with many of them failing to get the support that they sorely need, & they face an incredible amount of problems when trying to get approved for certain things.
Instant Family definitely sin't perfect, but it's an endearing look into adoption. Based on a true story, the film follows Pete (played by Mark Wahlberg) & Ellie (played by Rose Byrne) Wagner, a married couple in California. Although they are happily married, they feel that there is something missing in their lives. They would like to have children, but Pete is pretty old to be a father of a newborn child. Ellie brings up the idea of adoption, but Pete isn't up for it. However, Pete eventually warms up to the idea.
Pete & Ellie then begin an 8-week foster parenting class led by Sharon (played by Tig Notaro), who is more reserved; & Karen (played by Octavia Spencer), who is more outspoken. They eventually get their foster parenting licenses, & go to an adoption fair to see what kids they may be interested in. One of the teenage foster children, Lizzie (played by Isabella Moner), lets them know that they know that foster parents aren't really interested in the teenagers. However, this interests Pete & Ellie, & when they ask about becoming Lizzie's foster parents, they are told that Lizzie has two younger siblings: Juan (played by Gustavo Quiroz) & Lita (played by Julianna Gamiz). Pete & Ellie decide to take in all 3 of the kids, which meets mixed reactions from Pete & Ellie's families: Ellie's mother Jan (played by Julie Hagerty) is more hesitant about their decision, while Pete's mother Sandy (played by Margo Martindale) is more welcoming.
Although the initial few weeks with Lizzie, Juan & Lita in their house are great, it starts to become hectic for Pete & Ellie, as Lizzie is bratty, Juan is overly sensitive, & Lita will only eat potato chips. But although Pete & Ellie are not ready for what will follow, but they think they'll be alright in the end.
The cast is amazing. Mark Wahlberg & Rose Byrne have such great chemistry here. Tig Notaro & Octavia Spencer are hilarious in their small roles. But the standout is Isabella Moner, who truly shines here. And Gustavo Quiroz & Julianna Gamiz also shine.
Sean Anders' direction is great. Although there isn't much that stylistically differentiates Anders from other directors, he is able to overcome that with a warm-hearted sensibility & a personal touch, as the true story is Anders' true story of adopting 3 kids.
And the screenplay by Sean Anders & John Morris is very good. Although the plot is formulaic & the narrative is predictable, the humorous dialogue sticks out, & the screenplay isn't afraid to tackle the racial issues of the adoption.
This is a good comedy-drama. Although it's definitely too sentimental at times, the film is saved by a cast filled with great, warm-hearted performances.
Instant Family was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Sunday, December 30, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 118 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual material, language & some drug references.