Writer-director Sean Anders’s losing streak comes to an unequivocal end with the lovely Instant Family.
Moving away from the wince-inducing humour of Daddy’s Home and That’s My Boy, this deeply personal tale about married couple Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) adopting three children is hilarious and heartfelt. Based on his own experience of adopting a trio of young siblings, the director takes a warm-hearted, well-rounded approach to the joys and difficulties of foster care.
In recent years, Wahlberg has established a reputation for himself of playing real-life heroes in films such as Patriots Day, Deepwater Horizon and Lone Survivor. Pete is a hero too, for taking parental responsibility of these youngsters, and the actor manifests his personal trials as a father for a touching performance. Peter Berg directed the performer in the three aforementioned movies, and here Anders replicates the soul-stirring effect of Berg’s greatest work, Friday Night Lights.
Byrne is an absolute scene-stealing star as the riotously funny mother rapidly oscillating between love and despair over her new circumstance. If it wasn’t already acknowledged that the actress is comically gifted in Neighbours and Spy, her comedic height is boosted further under this filmmaker’s guidance, even outclassing Daddy’s Home co-star Will Ferrell. Sure, this feature is much sweeter, more sensible and more significant than anything Anders has previously made, but the hysterically sympathetic Byrne is the key to its success.
Of the three promising actors portraying the kids, Isabela Moner as eldest child Lizzy shows the greatest potential, delivering a painfully realistic performance as a neglected teenager who struggles to adapt to her new family due to the insecure love she still has for her drug-addicted biological mother Carla (Joselin Reyes), who’s soon to be released from prison.
The youngest child is the obstreperous Lita (Julianna Gamiz), who starts as the character with the most room for growth but essentially takes a backseat in the second hour of the movie. In between is Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) who’s largely a one-joke character – he’s prone to accidents, fulfilling Anders proclivity for slapstick – so when there’s a serious moment with him, it’s only sincere because of the adult actors in the scene. Nevertheless, providing some of the biggest laughs is a victory.
Overall, Instant Family is a bonafide family get-together classic in the making. Fun for everyone that should be accompanied with plenty of tissues, for tears both sad and happy.
Instant Family is released nationwide on 14th February 2019.
Watch the trailer for Instant Family here: