If you have seen any trailers or clips for Instant Family, then like me you may have thought to yourself “I’ve seen this before”. It may be that there has been nothing like this film, however, the vibe it creates makes it seem familiar. Which is why going into Instant Family, I was looking for uniqueness so it could be ridden of said vibe. Whether it managed to do this will be up to you, but I think a unifying agreement about Instant Family is there is a lot more depth to the story than you might think, there are however still things that drag it down.
First of all, the kids in this film were much better than I thought they would be, which is pretty remarkable. More often than less in these light family comedies, the child actors turn out to be the weaker link, which is by no means their fault. However, the kids were quite impressive when you look at their characters and how they link to the themes. You have Lita (Julianna Gamiz) the loud, temper fueled girl with a heart of gold, Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) a boy who has anxiety issues and the most impressive by a country mile, their teenage sister Lizzy (Isabela Moner). I have to give a lot of praise for Isabela for a smart, edgy-teen performance, in all her scenes, there always something hiding behind her character that you want to know more about, it’s very entertaining as she knows the game so to speak.
What about the parent, while Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) are nowhere near as impressive as the children, they still fulfil the roles of their characters well enough. It’s interesting to see them start out making an emotional decision and thinking they know how adopting a child will go, almost to the point of acting like a privileged couple. But seeing their characters overcoming problems they never knew they would have will connect to those in the audience who have children, it’ll resonate more with them more than others. I’m very 50/50 on these characters as I can see the good in the bad, and when the good shows, boy does it show.
Admirably, the film isn’t afraid to show us the more serious side of adoption. The film acknowledges how easy it can be for parents to adopt little children, but it also addresses the very different ball game of teenagers. It addresses how often teenagers are neglected because of things like drug addiction and how most teenagers end up on the streets once they’re too old for foster care. Not only does it know when to dig into the seriousness, but it knows how far to dig. Because of the light-hearted comedic tone in Instant Family, the film knows how to present the seriousness of adoption without it diverging too much from the overall tone. There is a bigger seriousness to the not so lighter side of adoption, but it knows what it wants to tell and tells it quite well.
Understandably, the film has the goal of promoting couples to consider adoption, however, there were at times where I felt that Instant Family became a feature-length promotional film rather than just a feature-length film. Because of this, the film’s story loses strength when you start to see that the dialogue used in tailored for promoting adoption. I still haven’t decided if this is a guilt-tripping tactic deployed by the film or not, but you never know what kind of effect this film will have on couples with no children, and I rather the influence of Instant Family to be built on good foundations.
The narrative features plenty of meetings between Pete and Ellie with other foster parents as well as two social workers Karen (Octavia Spencer) and Sharon (Tig Notaro). Whether they are too many of these scenes is up to you, but the other foster parents were in the film purely for serving a comedic purpose, some of which don’t land especially well. For instance, there is a single mother who has a concrete plan to adopt an athletic, African American child and turn him into a child prodigy (there are jokes about how this mirrors the film The Blind Side). While the idea is nice, it becomes dry of humour after a while and this seems to be the case with the other foster parents in those scenes.
We often like to throw around the phrase “feel good film” a lot. When a film is made purely for the sake of having a good time at the cinema, there still is an expectation of the film being a good story as well as making you feel good. In this case, Instant Family is ticking boxes, but it’s ticking them in pencil rather than permeant ink, which it had the potential to do. I’ll admit that the film was a lot better than I thought it was going to be, and indeed to you, it may surprise you with its depth and good child actor performances, you can even tell clearly this film was drawn from personal experience. But it needed a little more commitment to its comedy.
Final Result: 5/10 – Average
Have you seen Instant Family? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: On the Basis of Sex