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Film Review: Instant Family

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Maybe some filmmakers would disagree with me but I believe the hardest genre to make a great film in is comedy. When I think of the films that I have fallen in love with over the years there are plenty of sci-fis, plenty of dramas and plenty of horrors, but if I think about comedy the only great films I can think of in the past few years are We’re The Millers, Horrible Bosses and Bridesmaids. Don’t get me wrong, I love comedy. I love the comedy to the point where I can spend hours watching stand-up from around the world on Youtube, but it just seems rare to find a great comedy film these days – and it is for that reason I am so pleased that I have discovered Instant Family. This is not just a good comedy-drama, it is a great comedy drama.

Directed and co-written by Sean Anders (Daddy’s Home, That’s My Boy) Instant Family is one of the most in-depth looks at adoption that you will ever find yet also manages to remain an entertaining film that can be enjoyed from people of all ages. It chronicles the journey taken by married couple Pete (Mark Wahlberg – Ted, Transformers: Age Of Extinction) and Ellie (Rose Byrne – Bridesmaids, Neighbours) when they decide that adoption is the road that they want to take.

We see their awkward meetings at the adoption agency with the thoughtful and by-the-book Sharon (Tig Notaro – One Mississippi, Walk Of Shame) and the forthright Karen (Octavia Spencer – Fruitvale Station, Hidden Figures), the self-doubt they both experience while going through the training process with other couples who are also exploring adoption and then of course we see what happens when they are given three children to look after – the very moody teenager Lizzy (Isabela Moner – Sicario: Day Of The Soldado, Transformers: Age Of Extinction), the quiet Juan (Gustavo Quiroz – Peppermint, Akeda) and the very cute Lita (Julianna Gamiz – Making Babies, Jane The Virgin). Then there is the journey of the children. Lizzy finds herself pulled away from a home where she has been forced to become ‘mother’ to her younger siblings due to the fact that their drug addicted mother is pretty much non-existant. She then fights tooth and nail to stay with her siblings all while knowing that ‘no couple wants to adopt a teenager, yet alone a family of three.’

All of the advertising for Instant Family makes it look like a drama designed to educate couples of adoption – that could not be further from the truth. Yes adoption is the key theme of the screenplay put together by Anders and his co-writer John Morris (She’s Out Of My League, Dumb And Dumber To) but this film goes a lot further than simply being a how-to guide. The first thing that their screenplay gets right is the mix of comedy and drama. There are times that this film will have you laughing out loud as Pete and Ellie try their hand at parenting but their journey and the emotions experienced by Lizzy, Juan and Lita will at times also have you tears. I don’t think I have ever seen a movie that takes you to the opposite ends of the emotional spectrum like Instant Family does. I should also point out that the emotional journey also includes elements of suspense when the chidren’s real mother turns up as well. No matter how prepared you are Instant Family will take you on an emotional journey like no other film ever has before.

To tell the truth I am surprised that the team of Anders and Morris were able to pull off a movie as amazing as this. When a writing team has duds like Dumb And Dumber To and That’s My Boy on their resume things were not looking promising, however it seems that both men have learnt a lot with the work that they have done on Daddy’s Home and here you have a brilliantly written, well-rounded comedy and drama that deserves to be named in any critic’s Top Ten Films Of The Year list.

The amazing screenplay also brings out the best in the cast. Mark Wahlberg has proven himself over the past few years as one of the most well-rounded actors in Hollywood. Whether it be an adult comedy like Ted, a big action blockbuster like Transformers, suspenseful thriller like Mile 22 or a more family friendly comedy like Daddy’s Home Wahlberg can pull off those roles with absolute ease… there seems to be absolutely nothing he can’t handle. Here he again shows that skill. He masterfully pulls off the comedy parts of the movie whether it big slap-stick or some well-timed, witty one liners but he also has the ability to create some touching scenes with the younger casts members and there are times that you can really feel the pain and emotions that his character is going through.

Wahlberg is well supported by Byrne who has shown over the years that she is an amazing comedic actress as well. Despite brilliant performances in Bridesmaids and Neighbours she still seems to be one of the most under-rated actresses in Hollywood, but here she once again reminds audiences of just how good she is. Instant Family also seems a remarkable performance by Octavia Spencer who is in full-on comedy mode and manages to steal every scene she is in while the touching and dramatic performances of Isabela Moner and Julianna Gamiz showcase them as actresses to watch in the future.

There are very few films from the past that have the power to take their audience on a journey the way Instant Family does. Not only does this film show how hard much hard work comes from people who adopt or foster children, it also shows that it can be a rewarding role but also shows the emotional roller-coaster the children involved in the process go through as well. Instant Family is an instant classic that deserves all the praise that it can be given.


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