Instant Family movie poster
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Instant Family
Instant Family movie poster

Instant Family Movie Review

If you watch the movie trailers for Instant Family and shrug your shoulders because it looks like a generic family comedy starring Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne, I won’t blame you. But if you overlook this surprisingly charming, heartwarming and funny movie as a result of the marketing, I will.

Instant Family, based on writer/director Sean Anders’ real family, is about a married couple who one day decide they want children and for some reason opt to adopt not one, not two, but three siblings (!!!). Suddenly they’ve gone from zero to a thousand and are way out of their depth, especially due to the eldest child’s resistance.

Wahlberg and Byrne have surprisingly good chemistry with one another, the two playing off each other for great comedic effect. Wahlberg is arguably at his best in comedies, and Byrne is one of those terrific comedic talents who tends to fly under the radar, even though she’s great in just about everything she does (remember, she has starred in Bridesmaids, Neighbors and Neighbors 2, just to name a few).

Isabela Moner, who was last seen as the fierce daughter of cartel kingpin in Sicario 2, is also really good.

The movie itself works much better than it should; Instant Family doesn’t have the look or feel of one of 2018’s better movies, its aesthetics reminiscent of your typical big studio comedy (Anders previously directed Daddy’s Home and Horrible Bosses 2, neither of which stand out as the most ambitious of projects) and the story seemingly contrived as a fun concept to derive a bunch of situational comedy sequences.

But Instant Family clearly has a special place in Anders’ heart, for obvious reasons. The movie revolves around a strong emotional core, and the humor too feels as though it’s coming from real-life experiences, even if it is stretched and exaggerated for general audiences. Instant Family is funny, but it’s also heartwarming, and the combination is killer.

The movie isn’t without its cheesy parts; the reactions by Wahlberg and Byrne to some of the things the kids do play as overly slapstick. Anders would have been better served by restraining his actors in a few places—he has more than enough that works here that he didn’t need to resort to low-denominator comedy.

Still, Instant Family is a sneakily terrific movie. It’s funny, it’s emotional, and altogether it’s the whole package. It may not look it, and it will undoubtedly be ignored by some audiences and critics as a result, but it’s one of the better movies of the year.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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