TL;DR – There are some moments of real humour and it can be really heartfelt, but it has also be smashed into a rigid three-act structure to the point that you can see the plot beats coming a mile away.
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Adoption and foster care are two very important issues in society today. There are not enough foster parents for all the kids in the system, meaning that they get bounced around from house to house, or left in a worst state than when they came in. Which is a tragedy because these are some of the most vulnerable members of society and we need to be protecting them. Today we look at a film that explores this issue by looking at what happens when you go from having no kids to having three.
So to set the scene, Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) are a couple going through life that seemingly has it all. They run a successful renovation business where they buy down and out houses and then do them up to flip them for a profit. This helps gives their lives purpose, until one day Ellie’s sister mentions that they are never going to have kids and a look ensues. This leads to them having a look at adoption websites and being overcome by the need. So they attend training run by Karen (Octavia Spencer) and Sharon (Tig Notaro) and on a lunch playdate/get to know all the kids/totally weird event, they come across Lizzy (Isabela Moner) who everyone else is ignoring because they don’t want teenagers. They really like Lizzy but there is one catch, she comes with two siblings Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and Lita (Julianna Gamiz) and all of a sudden they become a family of five.
I have to say there are some really touching moments throughout the film, as
people discover that there are the highs and lows of parenthood. There is also
some really frank discussions of the issues facing children in the system and
the lack of foster parents that are there for the right reasons. All of this
leads to some really important moments in the development of the characters,
like that moment when everything is not working and Ellie and Pete contemplate
giving them back. But on the flip side,
there is that joy that happens when you get your first ‘dad’ that nothing can ever take away.
Adding to all this is a cast that is really putting their all in. I don’t think Rose Byrne gets nearly as much credit as she deserves to get. She has to go through the full range of emotions of an exasperated parent at the end of her line, but she does it so well. Also big props to Isabela Moner who is playing this character that is desperate to find meaning in her life while also being the de facto parent to her siblings. She does not want to let go and let Pete and Ellie be the actual parents, even though she desperately wants that family setting that she has always dreamed off.
while there are these touching moments, and I do think the cast is going for it,
you can tell that there are these structural issues that have been nailed into
the story to get it to fit a rigid structure. This film could be very much used
as an example of how to set up a three-act
stricture, but like not in a good way.
You can see every plot beat coming a mile away. You have the instigating event
(being told you will never have kids), then the call to action (seeing the
pictures and listening to the speech), then the resolution (getting the kids),
the struggle (life is not easy with the kids), then the 2nd act complication
(the biological mother returns), The second act twist, and then the third act
fight and resolution. This really undercuts the narrative at times. As well as
this, while it is looking at some important issues, it is a comedy film first
and an important incite on foster parents second. This is fine in some places,
like when one of the grandmothers gets sharpie all over her face. However, in
other places, they play important things
for laughs. Like how Juan has very clear abandonment issues, understandably,
but then he is mostly there for the comic relief of being the absent-minded one.
In the end, do we recommend Instant Family? Well, yes and no. Look if you go see it, you will probably have an okay time, and you maybe even learn a thing or two about the issues facing foster parents and the need for more of them. However, the way that they constructed the story is at times frustrating and at other times it real hurts the narrative. All of this leads to a disconnect, and this really impacts the final product.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Instant Family
Directed by – Sean Anders
Screenplay by – Sean Anders & John Morris
Music by – Michael Andrews
Cinematography by – Brett Pawlak
Edited by – Brad Wilhite
Starring – Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Isabela Moner, Gustavo Quiroz, Julianna Gamiz, Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro, Margo Martindale, Julie Hagerty, Allyn Rachel, Tom Segura, Michael O’Keefe, Brittney Rentschler, Jody Thompson, Iliza Shlesinger, Gary Weeks, Joy Jacobson, Hampton Fluker, Randy Havens, Andrea Anders & Kenneth Israel with Joan Cusack & Valente Rodriguez
Rating – Australia: PG; Canada: PG; Germany: 6; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13