‘INSTANT FAMILY’ is a heartwarming family film starring Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne. It’s directed by Sean Anders who also co-wrote this script based on his own real-life experiences as it follows a couple that decide to adopt three kids and find themselves in way over their heads. I will not try to sugarcoat it. I didn’t have a ton of excitement, or expectations for this film. The trailers looked a little too much on the formulaic side. It looked like it was a little too sappy, and it certainly appeared to have the potential for loads of melodrama. Also, while generally enjoying the films from Byrne and Wahlberg despite the usual misses any performer may have. I just had this feeling that there was the chance of them possibly sleep-walking through these roles. In the sense they could revert to other character personas we have already seen from them.
Regardless I went in optimistic and I walked out of the theater feeling happy inside from watching a sincerely heartwarming tale of a new family. The performances were much more impactful than expected. The beats of the story did follow some of the standard family film tropes and it was a little too cute at times. But in the end, it resulted in a down-to-earth plot without the melodramatic’s which allowed the message of the film to land as intended with much more authenticity. This film comes off as a surface level family comedy. But it showed a great effort in wanting to explore adoption from both the parental side, and that of the foster child. As well as capturing the happiness and hardships that come with adoption. This built a surprisingly strong connection with me because I could invest in the feelings and viewpoints of each side. It’s a serious topic and it was woven into the film with care. Not just as a plot-device to maneuver a narrative.
The writing did a great job of not letting the film get too heavy on the dramatic side to somber the mood by implementing a steady flow of effective humor. Comical moments are birthed from the situations and scenarios which made them resonate as much more genuine. A charming sense-of-humor in the dialogue adds another angle to the comedy which gave the film frequent laughs. This kept the tone of the story-line more lighthearted but without ever diminishing the seriousness of adoption. It embraced this method of building a family to create organic comedy out of situations many viewers can relate to whether they have adopted, have their own kids, or no children at all even. Anders co-wrote this from his own life experiences and it was visible onscreen because nothing felt over-bloated, or embellished for story-telling purposes.
Both Wahlberg and Byrne delivered great performances with a surprising amount of heart and charisma poured into their roles. As a couple their arc has a major swing from the beginning to the end of the story and both capture it with a natural realism. They each grow as individuals and as a couple evolving over a relatively traditional path. This allowed me to put myself in their shoes many times while watching which made the subject-matter much more intriguing. I also thought young Isabela Moner came in with a very grounded performance. As the rebellious teen of the group there was a strong potential for overacting during the more emotionally gripping scenes. But she showed a capability that made it feel like she wasn’t acting at times, and it ended up leaving the strongest impact on this film overall to me because she complemented Wahlberg and Byrne nicely, and embodied the part perfectly.
The run-time was just under the two-hour mark and I will admit it dragged slightly at times. But they were very minimal and didn’t hinder the overall entertainment of the movie. The story was continually progressing with likable characters, and a family you genuinely want to see make it. So the time does move relatively quickly for a majority of the movie. A great collection of side characters also come in to keep things fresh. Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro delivered two performances that provided some solid comic-relief, but also were able to heighten the emotional intensity during other sections of the story-line. In particular Spencer who I felt shined in every scene she was in. Margo Martindale, and Tom Segura come in as well to help add a charming comedic balance to the drama with some amusing scenes in smaller roles.
Overall, I have a great time with this heartwarming film. Wahlberg, and Byrne create an appealing connection through their chemistry that resonated with me enough to see them as real people. Not simply Wahlberg and Byrne. Added with a story-line that doesn’t force it too much for theatrical effect and the result was a touching look at adoption through the eyes of a heartwarming lens and I certainly recommend checking out.
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