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Instant Family (2018)

Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/5/2019

All Ratings out of
Extras: ½

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/4/2019

Hollywood is a section of Los Angeles, most famous for the aspects of the entertainment industry which are headquartered there.  “Hollywood” is also a label which has come to mean watered-down, middle-of-the-road movies which do nothing to stop outside of the norm.  And nothing says “Hollywood” more than a family-based comedy which arrives in cinemas during the holidays.  A movie like this will play it safe and offer no surprises…unless, of course, it does.  On the surface, Instant Family looks like a pretty standard family film, but it steps outside of the norm and really takes some chances. 


Ellie (Rose Byrne) and Pete (Mark Wahlberg) are a couple who run a successful business where they flip houses.  While discussing having children, Pete claims that he’s too old and jokingly says that they should adopt a 5-year old and get ahead of the game.  Ellie takes this seriously and looks into foster care.  She convinces Pete to attend an informational meeting and the two are sold are on the idea.  They go to an adoption fair, where they meet a teenager named Lizzie (Isabela Moner), who impresses them with her personality.  When they inquire about Lizzie, they learn that she comes with two younger siblings, Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and Lita (Julianna Gamiz), and soon, Ellie and Pete are welcoming all three children into their home.  At first, having the kids live with them is fun, but the reality of parenting soon settles in and the couple wonder if they are up to the task.


The trailer for Instant Family made the movie look like a fun romp which may contain some touching moments.  Of course, they had to market it that way, as accurate advertisements for the movie would have been confusing.  While Instant Family has some fun moments and some touching scenes, it is also a quasi-realistic look at the ups and downs of foster care and adoption.  The movie pushes the boundaries of its PG-13 rating with its language and for a great deal of the running time, plays much more like a drama than a comedy.


However, the most refreshing and surprising thing about Instant Family is how it pulls few punches.  Granted, this isn’t a gritty, slice of life independent film, but for a “Hollywood” film, it goes there quite often.  Of course, we see the stereotypical behavior from the children, where they have tantrums, show obstinate behavior, and generally do whatever they can to push Pete and Ellie’s buttons.  But, it’s the actions and words of the parents which are much more shocking.  Pete and Ellie have frank conversations about how they genuinely don’t like the kids at times, and how they regret their decision.  The film contains several scenes showing other parents from the orientation class and they too deliver unexpurgated comments about how challenging the children are.  In other words, Instant Family does very little to sugar-coat the realities of the situation.  Many foster children have been traumatized by their time in the system, and this makes caring for them challenging at times.  While Instant Family isn’t a documentary, it paints a clear picture of what this can be like.


Which leads me to my one complaint about the film – the tone is wildly uneven at times.  Again, this movie has some very serious scenes and there are some truly sad moments here.  (When you learn about the teddy bears, it will haunt you forever.)  But, there is also some slapstick comedy as well.  It honestly reminded me of how people will often crack jokes in sad situations in order to ease the tension.  Is that what’s happening here?  Similarly, at times, Mark Wahlberg gives the perception that he was not shown the script before certain scenes, as he acts (or reacts) genuinely surprised by what’s going on, giving the film another level of weirdness.  (Added to this is a very odd cameo during the finale.)  That awkwardness aside, Instant Family is a film that may take you by surprise if you are expecting a breezy comedy.  In truth, this is a heartfelt dramedy, which was taken from Director Sean Anders real life, that offers some laughs, but will mostly make you truly feel for these kids and admire those real-life heroes who take in foster children.


Instant Family made me want potato chips at every meal on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment.  The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps.  The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials.  The colors look very good, especially brighter tones, and the image is never overly dark or bright.  The level of detail is notable, as we can make out textures on objects, and the depth works well.  The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps.  The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects.  The stereo and surround effects really come to life during the adoption fair, as we can hear the noises coming form various corners of the space.  These effects do a nice job of highlighting sounds coming from off-screen and the separation is noteworthy.  The “demolition” scene offers some mild subwoofer effects.


The Instant Family Blu-ray Disc contains a ton of extra features.  We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Sean Anders and Writer John Morris.  “Mr. and Mrs. Fix-It” (4 minutes) simply gives an overview of the film’s plots and themes, while letting us know that it’s based on the real-life experiences of Anders.  “Kid Power” (9 minutes) focuses on the three kids, offering footage form auditions and camera tests.  “I Need Some Support” (5 minutes) places a spotlight on the cast of characters in the support group which Pete and Ellie attend, including Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro.  “Order in the Court” (4 minutes) takes us on-set to see the final scene being shot.  Anders shares how it mirrored his real-life experience.  We see how the Adoption Fair scene incorporated real-life adoptive families and allows us to meet those groups in “The Families Behind the Fair” (9 minutes).  “Crew Inspiration” (5 minutes) illustrates how real foster kids were used to provide notes on the script in order to make it more realistic.  "The Anders Family" (7 minutes) takes us inside Anders' home to meet his wife and hear their real story of adoption.  We also get to see his kids as well.  We get a 3-minute GAG REEL, the MUSIC VIDEO for "I'll Stay" by Isabela Moner, and 3-minute clip called "On-Set Proposal" which is exactly what it sounds like.  Finally, the Disc contains five DELETED & EXTENDED SCENES which run about 10 minutes and offer introductions from Anders and Morris. 

Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long