Instant Family is the true story of foster care and two people who realize they have a lot of love to give.
The idea that family starts with two people who love each other has long since been debunked. Families come in all shapes and sizes and Sean Anders newest film, Instant Family disproves the theory that you can’t choose your family; your family chooses you.
Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) are a suburban couple who flip houses for a living and they are really successful at it. Their own families have been goading them to start a family of their own, but we get the sense in the opening frames of the film that they’re not entirely ready to do that.
Ellie, of course has a different approach: why not adopt, and when she presents that idea to Pete, he rejects it until he sees the kids on the adoption web site. His heart is captured. They agree to take on one child, but find that when they meet three siblings, Lizzy, Juan and Lita, they decide that they have room in their hearts for three kids.
What they realize, very quickly, is just how unprepared they were for children. Lizzy (Isabela Moner) is a rebellious teenager with raging hormones and a desire to be loved. Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) is a hapless young sprout in need of a father figure to show him the ropes. Lita (Julianna Gamiz) is a pistol, but a loveable one. They are three kids who really need a family to love them and support them, even if it’s not necessarily something they want.
Instant Family is based in part on the real life experience of director and co-writer, Sean Anders who along with co-writer John Morris tells an honest and heartfelt story of the foster care system. The story focuses on the kids who are in need of families and the parents who think they are prepared or know what they want, and they realize just how unprepared they really are.
Octavia Spencer plays Karen, one of the social workers along with Tig Notaro as Sharon. They are there as much as guides for the parents-to-be as well as the audience. We can laugh with them because they’ve been through the process; they’ve seen the end result. But we also feel with them when the parents realize what they’ve gotten into and they are there to support them.
Anders and Morris make us feel good for going along this journey and the payoff is well worth the price of admission. Wahlberg, who is a staple of the duo’s films, especially the Daddy’s Home film series puts away his machismo personae for a couple of hours and returns to his dramatic roots with that twinkle in his eye. In fact, Anders had a good anecdote about how he got Wahlberg to star in the film in our interview with the duo.
The biggest struggle for the film is to ensure that the foster care system is painted in a positive and purposeful light. Too often, films or the media paint the foster care system in a negative light. Instant Family is an example of the system and people doing rigiht.
Anders layers the film with a strong supporting cast, specifically Julie Hagerty as Jan, Ellie’s mom. There’s a hilarious moment with her involving markers. Not to be outdone is Margo Martindale as Sandy, Pete’s mom. She wants to be everyone’s friend, but she offers the sagest advice.
Wisdom rules everything when it comes to family, blood or otherwise. Sean Anders has a lot of love to give and he brought it home in spades with Instant Family.
Now in theaters, Instant Family is rated PG-13.