Movie Review: “Instant Family”
Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) are house flippers. The 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, desperately, to help one of these kids and Pete, who is reluctant at first, looks at the site himself and 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 they meet a teen that stands out. LIzzy (Isabela Moner) leaves an impression on them, so they decide to move forward with fostering her, but they learn that Lizzy comes 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 have a shot at flipping a home.
The Pros & Cons
Mark Wahlberg & Rose Byrne (+8pts)
Isabela Moner & The Kids (+8pts)
Parenting & Family (+10pts)
The Tone (-2pts)
Pro: Mark Wahlberg & Rose Byrne (+8pts)
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 can both handle light hearted comedy and can also handle the drama that comes from a family oriented story. That all being said, I really liked what they were able to do in this movie.
The two had great chemistry together. Not good chemistry, great chemistry, Mark Wahlberg was able to do his own thing with his comedy and while a couple jokes missed their mark (no pun intended), most landed well. Rose Byrne also did a good job with the comedy, but both actors shined with the drama. The performances are not Oscar style performances, but they are performances that are incredibly relatable, and add a ton of heart to the story. Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne were quite honestly a fantastic pairing for this movie. Kudos to the actors and to the casting director!
Con: Predictable (-3pts)
Okay, I am not going to insult your intelligence here. This is a feel-good movie that is all about family. Everyone knows how this movie will end and everyone knows the few major plot points that will pop up along the way. The movie follows the same beats that so many movies have followed before.
Everyone knows that the family will struggle, find a groove, encounter a problem that challenges their bond, and then they have to overcome it. While the filmmakers do a good job of making us care about the characters and the situations, this does not fix the fact that it is a predictable movie. After only watching the trailer, you will be able to accurately guess the major plot points of the movie. What happens in between these plot points? You will have to see the movie to find out, but the major plot points are a given. Instant Family is a good predictable movie, but it is a predictable movie.
Pro: Isabela Moner & The Kids (+8pts)
First, I will talk about the two younger kids. Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) is the middle sibling, is extremely clumsy, so finds himself in a lot of dangerous situations, and is also super-sensitive, so is constantly crying about every little thing. Lita (Julianna Gamiz) is the youngest in the family, and can be a bit of a brat. When I say “a bit of a brat”, I mean that she flips out over things like not getting to eat potato chips, and exclusively potato chips, for every meal. These kids do not get much development, but they serve a pretty important function for the movie. While Pete and Ellie are trying to deal with Lizzy, or when they think they just might have a handle on their situation, that is when chaos strikes (in the form of Juan and Lita). Most of the film’s heart comes from the other characters, but the kids provide the movie with a lot of comedic situations while providing the main characters with a massive obstacle to get past.
I had only seen Isabela Moner in Transformers: The Last Knight, and she did alright in that movie, but 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 is old enough to remember her real mother, but too young to live on her own, and too young not to idolize her real mother. This teen comes with a lot of emotional baggage, and Isabela Moner did a great job of capturing that baggage. Her character is the emotional center of the movie, and Isabela Moner does an impressive job at filling that role.
Con: Jacob (-2pts)
Look, I get that this was intended to be awkward because it was supposed to cause drama, but I found the whole Jacob storyline to be 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 do not think it made sense for Lizzy’s character who is usually presented as having an attitude, but also smart and responsible. Does the whole Jacob thing cause comedy? Yes, but I do not think it worked for this story. The whole thing could have worked by simply having Lizzy learn a lesson and grow from the experience, but it never seems like she does. The Jacob thing feels like it was randomly thrown in here, then almost immediately ignored for the rest of the story.
Pro: Parenting & Family (+10pts)
This movie does a fantastic job at conveying what it means to be a parent, and what it means to be a family. What are the reasons that people have for adopting or becoming a foster parent? Are they doing it for the kids, for themselves, or 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? The movie does a great job at asking and answering these questions in a very satisfying, feel-good kind of way.
Con: The Tone (-2pts)
There is no doubt about it, this is a heart-warming, feel-good movie. The movie has a fairly light-hearted tone that works, for the most part. However when it comes to the more serious moments, the light tone causes the scenes to lose a little steam. One of two things happen. Either the serious scene will have a silly character lurking in the background, or the fact that this is a feel-good movie will slightly diminish how much audiences are invested in the serious moment (because the audience knows there will be some sort of a happy ending). Again, the tone works for the most part, but it has a side effect of making the serious moments slightly less impactful.
Grade: A- (94pts)
First, the problems with Instant Family. While relatively minor issues, it is worth mentioning that the plot is pretty predictable, the Jacob storyline felt out-of-place for this movie, and the light-hearted tone takes some of the steam out of the film’s more serious moments. Like I said, these issues were minor. The film has a lot more going for it than it has going against it.
To start, Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne were a great pairing that worked well together both dramatically and comedically. The younger kids provided plenty of chaotic comedy, but Lizzy was definitely the emotional heart of the story. Lizzy was played, wonderfully, by Isabela Moner, and was the primary obstacle for Pete and Ellie to overcome. Lizzy has the most emotional baggage and Isabela Moner did a great job playing into all of that. She is a talented young actress that I look forward to seeing more of. This story is predictable, but was executed really well, was entertaining, and was easy to get invested in. The filmmakers did a great job with this one, and I highly recommend checking it out.