Movie Review: 'Instant Family'

John Thomas

Husband, Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and his wife, Ellie (Rose Byrne), “sort-of want” to become Dad and Mom. They are considering starting a family, but not any time soon. The idea is an “in-the-future” kind of thought.”

Things are pretty good for them at the moment. They have two options, they could begin their family in the wildly popular way and then wait the traditional nine months or, as suggested by some of their friends, consider adopting or fostering one of the many children waiting to find a place to call home and someone to call mom and dad.

Pete and Ellie visit a website for a program connecting possible foster/adoptive parents with kids who are seeking such homes. Included in the website is the date for an upcoming “meet and greet” gathering where interested adults can actually meet and speak with them.

The group of children least likely to be fostered or adopted are the teenagers – of course, these are to whom Pete and Ellie are drawn. It’s here they meet the very outspoken, spirited, 15-year-old Lizzy (Isabela Moner), and make enough of a connection that she becomes their person of interest.

Deciding to move to the next step, prospective dad and mom attend training classes conducted by Karen (Octavia Spencer) and Sharon (Tig Notaro) who manage the adoption/foster center. Karen and Sharon are thrilled that Pete and Ellie are considering taking Lizzy, but there is a small hitch – actually two small hitches. Lizzy has a younger brother and sister, the three need to stay together. Birth-mother is still in jail, so the three children are ready to move in. Pete and Ellie finally decide that their home is the place.

Obviously the transition to being an instant family isn’t easy. Because of the children’s erratic background, they have developed erratic behaviors. One will only eat potato chips, the other child is continually sad and apologetic. While the older one, Lizzy, is moving quickly and aggressively towards womanhood.

Karen and Sharon are there to help and offer advice as are members of the support group who are also fostering/adopting children.

As things continue to unravel at Pete and Ellie’s home, a new threat appears that speeds up the unraveling, the birth-mother.

She has been released from prison and now seeks to be reunited with her children. Lizzy is anxious to make the transition backwards, while her little sister and brother are reluctant to change. Karen and Sharon become involved, but the final custody decision is to be made by the judge in his courtroom, not by popular vote by those concerned.

Directed by Sean Anders (Credits: That’s My Boy and Daddy’s Home), this is a “should see” movie that runs 118 minutes.


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