Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Isabela Moner, Gustavo Quiroz
Director: Sean Anders
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: When Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) decide to start a family, they stumble into the world of foster care adoption. They hope to take in one small child but when they meet three siblings, including a rebellious 15 year old girl (Isabela Moner), they find themselves speeding from zero to three kids overnight. Now, Pete and Ellie must hilariously try to learn the ropes of instant parenthood in the hopes of becoming a family. INSTANT FAMILY is inspired by the real events from the life of writer/director Sean Anders and also stars Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro and Margo Martindale.
Anytime a Sean Anders comedy comes out, I tend to be a little nervous about the level of quality that this movie would have. While he has written funny and unique movies in the past like We’re the Millers, he has also directed or written films like Daddy’s Home and Dumb and Dumber To, so needless to say his career has been a bit scattered. So, on which side of the spectrum does this movie end up on? Fortunately for the viewers, this movie sparks a new turn in Anders’ career as this movie is delightful from start to finish. Lead by three strong performances by Wahlberg, Byrne, and Moner, Instant Family is not just a good comedy, but it may just be one of the best comedies of the year.
The film follows Pete (Wahlberg) and Ellie (Byrne) Wagner, a married couple who decide they want to adopt a child to do something good for someone in need. When they find out that Lizzie (Moner), the child they became interested in comes with two additional siblings, this family realizes they might end up in a situation that nobody is prepared for. Starting off with the comedic elements of the film, I was truly surprised with just how many jokes were witty and funny. Many of the characters have quick one-timers that fit in beautifully within the context of the story. One of the things that aids these moments is the fact that the film laughs with us, and it does so in a very infectious way. Many of these jokes take place in the group therapy sessions with the Wagners and other adoptive parents, and when people are explaining some of their more ridiculous problems, the characters laugh at them in the same way that the audience does. The fact that the supporting cast is also filed with some truly funny people does not hurt this aspect either. While actors like Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro, Margo Martindale, and Tom Segura are not in the film for very lengthy periods of time, they make the absolute most of every scene they are in. Moving on to the acting, while Wahlberg and Byrne are naturally funny as always, I was surprised just how deeply emotional Moner’s performance was. We end up empathizing with her and her situation, as it must be incredibly tough to go through the legal adoption process as a teenager as this is probably the worst time emotionally to be going through this. The fact that people who are completely foreign to this process can identify and understand why she feels the way she does is a testament to how well Moner does in this role. While this is not a particularly deep role, Moner takes it further than it was probably intended to be and makes it so that we care more about her character and the growing pains she is going through. It is always nice to find a rare comedy where I legitimately care about the characters, but Moner’s performance helps push Instant Family up into the next level of quality films.
Overall, this year has been a pretty mixed bag for comedies, but luckily for anyone who watches this movie, they will be rewarded with one of the funniest movies of the year. Instant Family strikes a near perfect balance between being charming enough to capture the more sensitive audience while also being sharp enough to attract your more traditional comedy fans. After the rough patch that Wahlberg has gone through with his last few movies, he really needed a movie like this to help him find his footing again and truly bounce back. While the movie is not exactly doing fantastic at the box office, it shows us that he still has some talent left in the tank and can draw a variety of audiences to his films, and those who pick this one will surely enjoy it.
Overall Score: 8.5/10