Wear long sleeves for “Instant Family” because the emotional goodness will surely make you tear up. I wiped my eyes before leaving the theater. I needed to. This film has all the things that we want in a touching family friendly film at this family framed time of year. Love brings us all together.
But the film also points to a serious part of the American social scene. Millions of people at some point in their lives pass through bouts of addiction, crime and prison. Many of them leave children behind with no one to care for them. Other people who would like to care for and raise children have no children to care for and take care of. The child services people and the family courts try to put the yearning prospective parent and the needy children together. In our story, Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne play such a yearning couple.
These two have a comic connection not seen since the heyday of Lucy and Desi. Just seeing the two of them struggle with adopting three siblings while keeping their sanity makes the movie worth seeing. Australian Byrne and two-time Oscar nominee Wahlberg have a delightful, honest and seamless on screen magic that we rarely see.
Isabela Moner, a 17-year-old seasoned professional plays the older, protective and herself damaged sister. Moner also has a career as a pop singer to go with her 15 acting credits. She and Wahlberg worked in harness on last year’s big hit “Transformers: The Last Knight.” Moner might be the best thing about that clanky, clunky film about outer space creatures who can turn into cars or trucks. We will see more of her, or so I hope.
Two kids, Gustavo Quinvoz and Julianna Gamiz, play the younger brother and sister who come in the package deal. Both do well.
Four female actors provide some substance to the film. Oscar winner Octavia Spencer appears as one of the social workers. She steals every scene she’s in — except for one brief scene with Joan Cusac, who steals her scene too. Julie Hagerty and one of my favorite character actors, Margo Martindale, play the two would-be grandmothers with great verve.
Director Sean Anders also directed a number of comedy films including “Horrible Bosses 2.” He helped write the script with John Morris. He and Morris have co-written other films together, including the just mentioned “Horrible Bosses 2.”
Morris and Anders wrote a script about adopting a 15-year-old girl and her brother and sister, filled it with the kinds of emotional fireworks one might well expect and then in the credits flash actual photos of the family members of the crew. This is a very warm film for the holidays.
“Instant Family” has a family oriented PG-13 rating and runs for one hour and 58 minutes. Made with a $48 million budget the very well done, touching film has taken in a scant $52 million so far and ended last week at No. 6 across America.
This film will make you glad you went to see it.