Married couple Pete (Wahlberg) and Ellie (Byrne) decide to start a family by entering the world of foster care in this family comedy drama that is inspired by the real-life experiences of writer/director Sean Anders.
While there are comedy scenes after Pete and Ellie ambitiously take on not one child, but three siblings – cynical and rebellious 15-year-old Lizzy (Moner), accident-prone Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and youngest girl Lita (Julianna Gamiz) – the film does touch on the difficult, testing and heart-breaking moments of having an instant family in a way that makes you admire the people who are brave enough to foster in real life.
Of course, there are schmaltzy moments and a predictably cute ending, but there are tough times for the family too, which are nicely balanced with the comedy in a way that should appeal not just to older kids but also adults.
Wahlberg and Byrne make for a comically enjoyable couple, and there are some very funny moments provided by their foster parent support group that is led by the bonkers Karen (Spencer) and Sharon (Tig Notaro), and some of the wannabe parents – especially the woman who wants a football-playing black teenage boy because she loved the movie The Blind Side.
The star, however, is Moner, who gives a terrific performance as the teenager who has been let down so many times before. The film is an entertaining one for everyone, but she makes it really worth seeking out.
Is Instant Family suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
This is a 12A certificate in the UK and a PG-13 in the US due to some adult themes. There are mentions of drug and alcohol use and abuse, some mild sexual references and swearing.
Parents should also note there is a plot point about a girl receiving ‘dick pics’ from an older boy, and sending him nude photos in return.
The film isn’t suitable for younger children for the above reasons, and also because the themes of being abandoned by parents, and struggling to fit in with a foster family may be upsetting for the under-12s.
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