Instant Family

Home improvement couple Pete and Ellie Wagner (Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne) enjoy buying and renovating houses. Cajoled by her competitive, desperate-to-have-a-baby sister (Allyn Rachel), Pete and Ellie decide to become foster parents. Taking in three Hispanic kids, they find out that late parenthood has some surprises for such a DIY-capable couple…

...an unintentional horror that lacks even the saving grace of self-parody.

Ploughing the previously un-mined comedic potential of foster parenthood, ‘Instant Family’ is a film that confirms your worst fears. From its just-add-saccharine film title to its trite handling of a serious subject, this is an unintentional horror that lacks even the saving grace of self-parody.

Cast as an everyone / fixer-upper couple, muscle-bound Mark Wahlberg and screeching Rose Byrne coat their characters with a toxic tidal wave of white privilege. In a movie that can be only be watched through outstretched fingers and gasps of disbelief, this is a based-on-reality parable whose American values gleefully car crash through race, gender and anything else that might block up its world view.

Seen mostly from the myopic viewpoint of its wholesomely-presented leads, the movie slowly tries to articulate the teenage trials of its eldest daughter Lizzie. That said, any of her points about abandonment or neglect are quickly swept under its American quilt-ness of a script.

Peppered only with the sole dissonant voice of Octavia Spencer, whose from-the-street digs are relegated to laughter-only duties, nothing here is allowed to puncture the movie’s procession of a plot. Taking in such well-known vistas as rejection, misunderstanding and a tug-of-love ending, this is a movie at pains to avoid reality at all cost, lest it leaden its march to a feel-good ending.

Ultimately winding down as hatefully as it started, this is an inclusivity comedy which employs its own fierce door policy. ‘Concern’ is an entrance that can only ever swing in the favour of its Mom and Dad. Any other observers are swiftly made to shiver outside the plot, only to be brought-in as quick-fire quips, should the moralising need warming up.

Preaching a feel-good mantra from its very opening second, ‘Instant Family’s’ sanctimony is one that scales new heights of shock and awe. Wearing its cultural ignorance as both a medal and a badge, this is one rites of passage movie that will need more than an exorcist to cleanse it.


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