Instant Family Review
Release Date: November 16th 2018
PG-13: Thematic elements, sexual material, language and some drug references
1 Hr and 59 Minutes
Dir: Sean Anders | Writers: Sean Anders, John Morris
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Isabela Moner, Margo Martindale, Julie Hagerty, Tig Notaro, Octavia Spencer, Tom Segura, Michael O’Keefe, Joan Cusack, Iliza Shlesinger
When Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) decide to start a family, they stumble into the world of foster-care adoption. They hope to take in one small child but when they meet three siblings, including a rebellious 15-year-old girl (Isabela Moner), they find themselves speeding from zero to three kids overnight and trying to learn the ropes of instant parenthood in the hopes of becoming a family.
If anything impressed me about “Instant Family” it’s some of the visuals and transitions. The film would often do some creative wipes and cutaways that you wouldn’t expect from a studio comedy. There is some money behind the production and it shows.
I will get to the cast later on in the review, but the two who did leave an impression on me were Isabela Moner and Margo Martindale. I mention Moner because her performance is overall really good. From serving strong-willed savagery in “Transformers: The Last Knight” and “Sicario 2”, Moner has proven how good of an actress she is. She has a good amount of scene presence and often outshines Byrne and Wahlberg. It has me fully confident in her portrayal of Dora the Explorer in the upcoming film slated for 2019.
And then... Martindale. Beloved character actress Margo Martindale.
God bless this woman. It was almost an hour into the film that she was introduced (aka just before I left), and Martingdale graced the screen with the utmost glee and joy. Not only did she make this frustrated Grinch smile, but she delivered two of the only belly laughs that I received throughout the film.
Well, that’s all of the positivity I have towards the film.
Right before the film started, writer/director Sean Anders came onscreen and poured out his heart and soul expressing how the film he made was inspired by the events he and his wife went through when they were adopting. I bet he had nothing but good intentions when developing this movie, but I honestly hope to God that he is nowhere near as horrible as the characters in this movie.
When it comes to comedy, nobody is fond of shallow characters. But when you apply shallowness towards child adoption, then you have to be the most inept person on the planet. Words cannot express how terrible every single person in this movie is, primarily our two central characters.
Your lead characters Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) have to be one of the worst married couples I’ve seen in a movie in a long ass time. They are shallow, loud, selfish, and judgemental to an unbearable degree. If you don’t agree with something that they don’t like, then they’ll offend you and make it seem like they’re innocent when you call them assholes. The exact moment you fully hate them is when they attend a Foster fair where they offend a girl just for sitting on her own and a group of teenagers who “use drugs, masturbate, and watch people play video games on YouTube!”
What’s this couple’s motivation to keep these kids during the instant parenthood process? To prove their own family wrong and show that they are equipped enough to provide. It’s not for the heartfelt desire to have kids, but to show their relatives and friends that they can. Besides being triggered over seeing a bunch of faces on a foster site, never for a moment do you see them genuinely motivated to have any kids. They claim that they want to be parents so bad, yet they put little effort when raising them. Even if they are the Hispanic “Bebe’s Kids”, they often banter over giving up and wanting to send the kids back. It’s one thing to have characters who try their best even though they aren’t fully equipped to be parents. That was part of the charm of films such as “Cheaper By the Dozen”, but to have your leads take this foster care process as a joke and being so geared to quit when situations get rough, then you’re given nothing to root for.
Then, you have the child adoption agency which is run by Tig Notaro and Octavia Spencer. Their roles are supposed to be the foster care guidance counselors of the adoption process for Ellie and Pete and the many other adoptees. They’re introduced as such, but then they start to crack jokes on the kids they have under file. They’re supposed to be the ones who make sure the adoption process runs smoothly and that the kids are in a nice and stable home. Not this shit.
If that isn’t bad enough, Ellie and Pete attend this group adoption support group for weekly check-ins on the progress of settling the kids. The other parents proceed to crack jokes and talk trash about the kids they adopted. Why? Because it's a comedy that needs you to laugh at jokes! I didn’t know child adoption was so fucking funny. Yeah, comedy is supposed to be a bit hyperbolic, sure. But the umbrella of what the jokes are clouded over plays a major part of it. You want to raise awareness about children in foster care? Then don’t make offensively shallow jokes about it and expect audiences to eat it up.
Even the couple’s family is worse than they are to an extent that, when Ellie’s mom meets the kids, she slowly sounds out her words so the kids can understand her. Why? Because they’re Hispanic and of course they don’t understand English. It’s 2018 and we’re still doing jokes centered on white people thinking there’s a language barrier between them and kids of different cultures?
Even the editing is friggin’ piss poor. The jokes that are seen in the film’s trailer do appear in the final cut, but it’s so damn choppily spliced that it makes a lot of the film completely unfunny. The slapstick never fully hits the comedic impact because they’re focused on inserting nothing but reaction shots and insane jump cuts that always seem to break continuity.
I’m going to be completely honest, for a 2-hour comedy, I walked out an hour and 15 minutes in. Why? Because not only did I know where the film was going to go, but I did not want to put up with the false emotions that it was going to try to evoke out of me. We already went through the garbage that was “Life Itself” two months ago so why should we put up with this? I was already frustrated by how incredibly unlikable every single character (except Margo Martindale) was that once Ellie and Pete joked about abandoning the kids and referring to them as assholes, I straight up left. No comedy ever needs to be 2 hours long and because that running time was circumventing around my head for a lot of the film, I had no drive to finish and couldn’t stand another second with these awfully written characters. I rarely walk out of movies, but this just left me with frustration and rage that I haven’t felt in a long while.
“Instant Family” may have a wholesome concept, but the reek of shallow, detestable characters making this family comedy an unfunny, offensive instant failure.
Rating: 1.5/5 | 31%
Super Scene: Enter Grandma Sandy.