Directed by: Sean Anders – Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Isabela Moner, Margo Martindale, Julie Hagerty, Octavia Spencer
When I first saw the trailers for this I assumed it was a screwball comedy, especially since it is directed by Anders, who is best known for his work on movies such as Horrible Bosses 2, and both Daddy’s Home films. So I was quite surprised when I learned that it was based on Anders’ own experience of adopting his children.
Wahlberg and Byrne star as Pete and Ellie Wagner, who begin the adoption process hoping to add a baby to their family. However, when they attend an adoption fair, they meet a teenager called Lizzy (Moner) who really strikes a chord with them, after she explains that no one wants to adopt older children. They decide to enquire about taking her in, and learn she has two siblings. Undeterred, they agree to take all three, finding themselves with the Instant Family of the title.
Three unruly children and two inexperienced parents – what could go wrong? Well, as you can imagine, practically everything, and you have to wonder how many of these scenarios actually happened to Anders in real life. There are tears and tantrums – and that’s just Pete and Ellie. Anders has done a great job of capturing the family dynamic, and although this is about adoption, many people will recognise the brattish behaviour and the parent figure’s reaction from their own childhoods.
The three young actors playing the children are wonderful, and really gel well as a family. Byrne is extremely funny, and even Wahlberg (whom I’m not a fan of) acquits himself well here. This is less in your face than many of Anders pervious offerings, and – dare I say it – quite heart-warming.
It does have a lot of plot-holes, and doesn’t really convey the complexity of the adoption process, but once the kids arrive in the Wagner home, the movie really takes off. One of its biggest flaws is that it doesn’t always strike the right balance between pathos and humour. Some of the comedy scenes seem somewhat ill-judged, while a couple of the heavier scenes could have probably have benefitted from a little light relief in order to maintain balance.
That aside, this was far more entertaining than I expected. You’ll find yourself very invested in the welfare of the kids, and will have a lump in your throat at times. Its heart is in the right place, and its intentions are good, and you could do worse than cough up the price of an admission ticket for this emotional roller-coaster.
In Cinemas Now!