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Movie Review: “Instant Family” (2018)

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 11/16/2018

Theatrical Release: 11/16/2018


Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) are house flippers. They buy old, rundown houses, renovate them, and sell them to the highest bidder. One day, Pete comes home to find Ellie crying over a foster website. She wants to help one of the foster kids on the website and Pete—who was reluctant at first—looks at the website and ultimately caves. Before they know it, they find themselves in a foster class, ready to adopt.

Pete and Ellie imagined taking in a young child, but then they meet a teen that stands out. Lizzy (Isabela Merced) leaves an impression on them, so they decide to move forward with fostering her, but they learn that Lizzy comes as a package with her two younger siblings. The kids are certainly a handful, but Pete and Ellie decide to give it a shot. A house is just a building, but a home is where a family lives. Pete and Ellie have flipped many houses, but now, with the chaos that comes with three kids, they will attempt to turn their house into a home.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Mark Wahlberg & Rose Byrne (+6pts)

Predictable (-4pts)

Isabela Merced & The Kids (+6pts)

Jacob (-2pts)

Parenting & Family (+8pts)

The Tone (-2pts)

The parents.

The parents.

Pro: Mark Wahlberg & Rose Byrne (+6pts)

These two have done similar roles before. Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne have played characters who were either new to parenthood or new to responsible parenthood, so they were good picks for this movie. They have both proved that they can handle light-hearted comedies, and they have proved that they can handle the drama that can come with a family-oriented story. Both Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne have done similar roles before, and I liked what they were able to do here.

Mark Wahlberg was able to do his thing comedically, and while some jokes missed their Marky mark, most of them landed effectively. Rose Byrne also did a good job with her character's comedic moments, and both actors shined with the movie's more dramatic moments. They made their characters feel real and relatable, and they made it easy to connect with the emotional issues that their characters were facing. Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne were a great pairing for this movie on paper, and they unsurprisingly did a great job with it.

A still from the film.

A still from the film.

Con: Predictable (-4pts)

This was a feel-good movie that was all about family. Everyone who starts this movie will have a pretty good idea of how it will end, and everyone who starts this movie will also see the major plot points coming, long before they arrive. This movie followed the same beats that so many movies have followed before, which made it pretty predictable. Everyone knows that this misfit family will struggle initially, find a groove together, encounter a problem that challenges their bond, and then have to overcome it.

While the filmmakers did a good job of making us care about the characters and the situations, this did not entirely hide the fact that it was a predictable movie. After only watching the trailer, you will most likely be able to guess how this movie will play out. What happens in between those plot points? You will have to see the movie to find out, but it was pretty obvious what those plot points would be, even without having seen the movie. Instant Family was a good movie, but it was still a predictable one.

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A still from the film.

A still from the film.

Pro: Isabela Merced & The Kids (+6pts)

Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) was the middle sibling. He was extremely clumsy, so he found himself in a lot of dangerous situations, and he was super-sensitive, so he was constantly crying about every little thing. Lita (Julianna Gamiz) was the youngest in the family, and could be a bit of a brat—when I say “a bit of a brat”, I mean that she flipped out over things like not getting to eat exclusively potato chips for every meal. These kids did not get much development, but they served a pretty important function for the movie. While Pete and Ellie were trying to deal with Lizzy, or when they thought they just might have a handle on their situation, that was when chaos struck, and it struck in the form of Juan and Lita. Most of the movie’s heart came from the other characters, but the kids provided the movie with a lot of comedic situations while providing the main characters with countless, chaotic obstacles to overcome.

I had only seen Isabela Merced in Transformers: The Last Knight, and she did alright in that movie, but I thought she did a great job in this one. Her character was Lizzy, the eldest of the three kids and the one that causes the most drama. She was old enough to remember her real mother, but she was too young to be able to live on her own. This teen came with a lot of emotional baggage, and Isabela Merced did a great job bringing that baggage to the screen. Her character was the emotional center of the movie, and I thought the young actress carried that weight well.

A still from the film.

A still from the film.

Con: Jacob (-2pts)

I get that this was intended to be awkward because it was supposed to cause drama, but I found the whole Jacob storyline too creepy. I do not want to get into the details, but I did not think this part of the story fit with the family vibe from the rest of the story. I also thought it felt out-of-character for Lizzy, as she was usually shown as having an attitude, but she was also shown as being smart and responsible. Did the whole Jacob thing make way for some comedy? Yes, but I did not think the storyline fit in well in this family story. The whole thing could have worked by simply having Lizzy learn a lesson and grow from the experience, but it never seemed like she did. The whole thing felt like it was randomly thrown in here for a couple of laughs, then almost immediately ignored for the rest of the story, but I did not think those laughs were worth the creepiness that surrounded this storyline.

A still from the film.

A still from the film.

Pro: Parenting & Family (+8pts)

I thought the filmmakers did a fantastic job at bringing the concepts of parenthood and family to the screen. What are the reasons that people have for adopting or becoming a foster parent? Do they do it for the kids, for themselves, or do they do it so that others will think highly of them? What does it mean to be a parent? Is adopting a child a "lesser" option than having a child of your own, or is it just as special? I thought filmmakers did a great job of introducing these questions within the family-movie format, and I thought they answered these questions in the satisfying, feel-good kind of way that you would expect a movie like this to do.

A still from the film.

A still from the film.

Con: The Tone (-2pts)

There is no doubt about it, this was a heart-warming, feel-good movie. The movie had a fairly light-hearted tone that worked for the most part. However, when it came to the more serious moments, the light tone caused the scenes to fall a little flat. In some of these serious scenes, there was a silly character lurking in the background, somewhat spoiling the serious tone. In other serious scenes, the fact that this was a feel-good movie made it hard to worry about the outcome, because the audience knew there would be some sort of a happy ending. Again, the tone worked for the most part, but it had the side effect of making the more serious moments slightly less impactful.

Grading Scale





























A still from the film.

A still from the film.

Grade: B+ (87pts)

While relatively minor issues, it is worth mentioning that the plot of this movie was pretty predictable, the Jacob storyline felt out-of-place for this movie, and the light-hearted tone took some of the steam out of the film’s more serious moments. Fortunately, I thought the movie had a lot more going for it than it had going against it. Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne were a great pairing that worked well both dramatically and comedically. The younger kids provided plenty of chaotic, comedic moments, and Lizzy was the emotional heart of the story, as she was the character that Pete and Ellie had to win over. Lizzy had the most emotional baggage of the three kids, and I thought Isabela Merced did a great job bringing it all to the screen. This story was predictable, but I thought it was executed really well, as it was entertaining, and it was easy to get invested in. The filmmakers did a good job with this one, and I recommend checking this one out if you were on the fence about it.

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