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Review: Instant Family

Instant Family
7 10

PLOT: A happy, middle-class husband and wife (Mark Wahlberg & Rose Byrne) are eager to start a family. They decide to give adoption a try, but quickly wind up over their heads when the three children of a drug-addicted unfit mother are placed with them in foster care.

REVIEW: Chalk INSTANT FAMILY up as one of the more pleasant surprises of the season. Sean Anders is a director whose work has never particularly moved me one way or the other. His two DADDY’S HOME movies were fine, although the less said about his HORRIBLE BOSSES sequel, the better. What makes INSTANT FAMILY a cut above is that it’s a premise that clearly hits home to him, with him being a foster dad himself, giving the whole thing an air of legitimacy it wouldn’t have had otherwise. This is charming and inoffensive, but it’s not a fairy tale.

Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne are effectively cast as the warm-hearted, well-intentioned couple at the movie’s heart. Both convey a lot of affection for each other and for the kids, but both are also able to infuse a bit of acidity into their roles once the honeymoon period is over with their new kids. Both the highs and lows of such a situation are conveyed, from the happiness they feel as they bond to the kids, to the very real threat that their mother could straighten up and reclaim them. A very nice touch is that their drug addicted mother isn’t presented as a shrewish monster, but rather someone just collapsing under the weight of a problem that’s out of their control, adding up to a family comedy that’s a far cry from what, let’s say, the Happy Madison version of this might have looked like.

Much of the film centers around Wahlberg and Byrne trying to make headway with the oldest kid, a tough teen played by Isabela Moner, who’s used to self-reliance, and being the defacto mom. Her younger siblings are comparatively easy to win over, but she’s shown to be a justifiably hard case, with her resenting the intrusion of well-meaning people she feels just view her siblings as accesories. The reality of the relationships and the gradual way they start to bond is the meat of INSTANT FAMILY, which very rarely lapses into slapstick, making this a far cry from anything Anders has tried before. The supporting cast is spot-on, with Tig Notaro and Octavia Spencer as the warm, but cynical social workers, Julie Hagerty as Byrne’s scatter-brained mom, and best of all, Margo Martindale, who utterly steals every scene she’s in as Wahlberg’s tough-gal mom.

It’s a shame this didn’t really win over a big audience this weekend, as it plays like a major crowdpleaser, but perhaps word of mouth will help it win some ground over the holiday weekend. It’s a solid family flick, and Wahlberg has rarely been so likeable (Byrne is always good). Even if the broad looking trailers have turned you off, if you have kids and are looking for a somewhat even tempered, less cartoonish than average piece of family entertainment, this one is a solid choice.

Source: JoBlo.com

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