As a model turned singer and actor, Mark Wahlberg has made his name in the most unlikeliest of places. Now, he’s selling the idea that he’s a family man, and for some reason, it works.
From protecting his family in two Transformers outings, and as the new father in two Daddy’s Home films, the one-time Marky Mark is sealing his trifecta with a brilliant turn as a new Daddy in Instant Family, alongside the underrated Rose Byrne as his wife.
Based on the true story of the film’s director, Sean Anders, who, along with his wife, adopted three children at one shot, Instant Family is a dramedy about a married couple whose quest for adoption leads them to three siblings.
Though filled with drama, this isn’t the heart-wrenching drama that delves deeply into the intense matter of fostering and adopting children. But it isn’t the nonsensical, Adam Sandler type comedy that uses jokes to mask the touchy subject matter. Instead, it straddles the reality of fostering, while putting a wholesome spin on the topic.
But there’s no denying that Wahlberg’s and Byrne’s natural chemistry and likable charm help drive the film. As a long time married couple, the desire to have kids comes at a time when they are financially capable, but are no longer young, so why not start somewhere past the starting point?
Instead of jumping straight to the three kids, the movie spends plenty of time on the fostering process, telling viewers that the process is a methodical and well-planned one, but at the same time informing them that there is a system in place to ensure that potential parents are properly educated and vetted, to weed out those not prepared.
Once that’s settled, the parents meet the children, and that’s when the fun begins. Saying that they don’t get along is an understatement, not because the parents are unprepared, or the children naughty. Each individual has a different temperament, and if a marriage of two individuals is hard to maintain, imagine a group of five.
Leading the trio of children is Isabela Moner as Lizzie, the eldest and the one designed to the rebel. Gustavo Quiroz plays Juan, the only boy and the quiet one who seems a little damaged by the fostering process. Rounding up the siblings is little Julianna Gamiz as Lita, the precocious one with a temper.
Having starred across Wahlberg in Transformers: The Last Knight, Moner is the natural charmer and both share the same on-screen aloofness when interacting with the unknown. Her narrative trajectory isn’t too difficult to surmise, but Moner does what she can from the little that is handed to her.
Having played on her comedic traits in Spy, Neighbours and Bridesmaid, Byrne continues to shine with her slightly over the top but still endearing portrayal of a wife and mother who doesn’t have it all together, but then again, who really does?
By the time the third act rolls by, just prepare the Kleenex and get ready to have a satisfying, albeit predictably saccharine conclusion.
On a side note, props to Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro, who play social workers Karen and Sharon respectively. The duo jazz up the scenes they are in, and are easily the best bits about Instant Family. If there are ever two actresses in a film who have little in way of a script, but knock it out of the park, these two are it.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Instant Family isn’t raising the bar on dramedies, nor is it covering new ground, but it does a serviceable job in highlighting the little known world of fostering/adopting, and puts a refreshing spin to it.
Story - 7.5/10
Direction - 7.5/10
Characterisation - 8/10
Geek Satisfaction - 7.5/10