'Instant Family' (2018) Movie Review

Updated on December 31, 2018
John Plocar profile image

I knew a guy that knew a guy that considered fostering a kid once, but it turned out he was allergic. Tragic.

What A Twist…

Originally I had another film in the line-up to review before Instant Family, but after the ending credits rolled I discovered something that I wasn’t quite expecting and it threw me off in such a big way that I needed to discuss it immediately. This is from director Sean Anders; the same man that brought us both of the mediocre Daddy’s Home movies as well as the dreadful misfire of comedy That’s My Boy, which is a movie I consider to be one of the worst films I have ever seen in my life. Now he brings us Instant Family supposedly, I say ‘supposedly’ because I cannot for the life of me figure out how this man actually directed this comedy because this is incredible. This is a great movie and I call shenanigans here. There’s no way, no way this guy directed this movie. Nope. I refuse to believe that he made this thoughtful, emotionally effective and downright hilarious movie. No, there’s no way. No. The man that thought pedophilia and incest was hilarious six years ago with That’s My Boy, somehow now crafts this very mature look at adoption and foster parenting. Just last year Anders released Daddy’s Home 2, an hour and a half worth of Will Ferrell running around acting like an idiot and screaming at the top of his lungs with groan inducing humor; this year with Instant Family, I laughed and I damn near shed a tear through its whole two hour run time. How is this possible?! For me, this is the equivalent to if I found out 1989’s Parenthood wasn’t directed by Ron Howard, but actually Tyler Perry; it makes no sense, but I am so glad this happened because this is an astonishing step-up for Sean Anders as a director and I truly hope to see more work like this from him.

He did what now?!
He did what now?!

The Plot

Based on a true story, Pete and Ellie are a couple that have reached a point in their lives where they would like to have children and decide that adoption is the way to go for them. Once they meet three siblings that they like (Lizzy, Juan and Lita) they soon become their foster parents. After a short while, Pete and Ellie start to realize that parenting children who come from a broken home isn’t all that simple and it takes a lot of effort on everyone’s part to figure out if this family can really make it work or if it’s not the right fit.

Ellie & Pete
Ellie & Pete

The Right Blend

Instant Family knows exactly how to balance comedy and drama quite well, for the most part, nothing ever felt out of place or created a clash in tone. When a scene needed to be funny, it delivered the laughs and when it needed to be serious it threw the gut punches strongly. I was invested in this family and I really wanted to see them all live happily by the end of the movie; no single person is perfect, they all have their flaws and that made them feel all the more real and relatable. Everyone has their good days and their bad days, this film portrayed that extremely well. One day the foster mother, Ellie, could be really connecting with her angst ridden foster teen, Lizzy, and then the next day they might be at each other’s throats. Instead of feeling disjointed or confusing it makes sense with these characters, there isn’t going to be one little thing that’s going to make everything all better and work smoothly forever, it’s a constant fluctuating relationship that these people have and it’ll take more than simply one good day in order to create a true bond. If it’s even possible to form that bond at all.

Lizzy & Ellie getting along.
Lizzy & Ellie getting along.
Ellie & Lizzy at it again.
Ellie & Lizzy at it again.

Pete, Ellie, Lizzy, Juan and Lita all have their own unique personalities that make them likable and we also understand exactly why they are the way they are. Pete is an optimistic type that initially believes that taking care of kids is comparable to fixing up a house since that is his profession and it is comprehensible as to why his mindset is the way that it is to begin with. Then as things progress, he and Ellie come to understand that these are young people that have gone through and remain going through a difficult time; the children’s mother is a drug addict that burned down their home and is currently incarcerated while they bump around from foster home to foster home, never finding the right fit because they miss their mom. It’s obvious that things aren’t just going to happen overnight to make them immediately a family, there are some major issues that they all have to face. Not only the matters about the kids’ birth mother, but also the fact that they’re simply kids. The youngest, Lita, is a four year old ramped ball of energy and emotion that can be the sweetest little angel, but so stubborn and full of rage when not given her precious potato chips. The middle child, Juan, is no older than ten years old and is a bit of a klutz and relatively absent minded; always getting himself hurt or breaking things by mistake, causing him to be extremely timid. Lizzy is the oldest of the three at fifteen and she is your typical moody, angsty teenager that doesn’t want to be controlled by anyone while fawning over the bad boys; however, on top of that, she has basically been the only parental figure for the youngest two most of her life and it’s clear that she’s not simply going to let just anyone start taking care of her siblings. To Lizzy, her brother and sister are strictly her responsibility. She will play nice and occasionally let Pete and Ellie take the reigns temporarily to an extent, but other than that they are practically her children, so the character arc that Lizzy goes through here in whether or not deciding to let go of that responsibility and let these people try to be their parents was really engaging and I wanted to see if they could function together as a family.

Pete, Ellie, Lizzy, Lita, and Juan.
Pete, Ellie, Lizzy, Lita, and Juan.

A Beautiful Little Surprise

I surprisingly loved Instant Family, it has a terrific amount of laughs and heart to go along with it. The drama touched me, the characters are all likable, there are some real sweet and endearing scenes scattered throughout and some bust out loud funny moments too. When I saw the trailers I thought that the movie looked like it would probably be fine, nothing too special, after seeing it I now see that this is pretty special. It is a great story about family and how it’s not always sunshine and rainbows, but we can persevere through love. Aside from one slightly awkward moment involving Joan Cusack, I can’t think of any other particular moment where the film faulters. The handling of its characters are thoughtfully done and the story wrapped me right up, I don’t know how accurate the film is to the details of what actually transpired in reality, but as a movie it was very good. Check this one out as soon as you can if you’re looking for a hilarious comedy with compelling drama.

There's also a dog.
There's also a dog.

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    © 2018 John Plocar

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