Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne star in this family comedy with heart inspired by the true adoption story of director Sean Anders.
In Instant Family, a professional couple decides to expand their family and stumble into the world of foster care and adoption. Pete (Wahlberg) and Ellie (Byrne) go into it thinking they’ll foster a younger child, as is what happens more often than not in the program but end up meeting a young teenage girl and taking her and her younger siblings in. Lizzy (Isabela Moner), Juan (Gustavo Quiroz), and Lita (Julianna Gamiz) have been in various foster families when they meet Ellie and Pete, and the film takes a balanced approach to show the joys and challenges of finding your forever family through adoption.
Anders’ experience with family comedy with the Daddy’s Home films, which tackles Co-Parenting and also stars Wahlberg, has shown a solid mastery of handling real family journeys in the genre by making the laughs and emotional beats work without falling into trope cliches. From Pete and Ellie realizing they might be in over their heads, having fun in the honeymoon phase, having the kids meet their grandparents, and then clashing with the hardships that come with accepting that things don’t always go so perfectly throughout–the film really handles a balance by keeping a good pace between the various beats. It never feels too corny, and the comedy doesn’t entirely lean into making fun of their situation. It’s very self-aware, there’s a great moment with Pete, where he asks if his adopting three Latinx kids makes it a weird white savior thing. It doesn’t avoid or pretend that this couple that comes from privilege just magically gets kids and their lives are all automatically improved.
Moner as Lizzy carries a lot of emotional weight for her and her siblings who do represent real kids in their situation, and she nails the performance. All at once she’s a kid who had to grow up too fast, a teen girl and a child who profoundly wants a family. I can’t wait to see her in more roles that allow her to grow as an actress and continue to reflect characters she would like to see more of on screen. She and the younger kids totally steal the movie, and their relationships with Wahlberg and Byrne are so believable as a family you want to see them win. The rest of the ensemble which includes Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro, and Margo Martindale turns out some memorable and hilarious moments throughout the film. Oh–and there’s a family dog who needed a bigger role in the movie.
While there are still some slight problematic moments, overall the film does a better job at tackling the real challenges and triumphs of adoption in ways that other movies do not and have not because we so rarely see films like this. Expect a lot of laughs and tears but overall just a feel-good holiday film for the family.
For more info about the story behind the film and adoption visit: