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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Instant Family (Blu-ray)
Instant Family (Blu-ray)
Paramount // PG-13 // March 5, 2019 // Region A
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted April 8, 2019 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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THE FILM:

Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne play Pete and Ellie Wagner, a married couple renovating their dream home. Friends and relatives constantly hound the pair about having children, so they decide to enroll in a fostering class. Undeterred by the warnings of their fellow foster parents not to adopt a teenager, Pete and Ellie decide to foster an outspoken high-school-age girl and her two younger siblings. As their new house starts looking like a home, the blended family builds relationships and grows together. Instant Family is a well-meaning comedy with dramatic elements, and, although it is imperfect, the film does a nice job painting the adoption roller coaster in a humorous light.

As an adoptee myself, I did wonder if there was a backstory to Pete and Ellie's not having biological children. Not that it's particularly important to the narrative, but Instant Family implies it was the couple's choice and not a conception issue. At an adoption fair, Pete and Ellie see a group of teenage kids, typically passed over by foster parents for younger children with less baggage. Lizzy (Isabela Moner) tells Ellie not to feel bad; no one else wants the teenagers either. Undeterred, the Wagners decide to foster Lizzy and her younger siblings, Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and Lita (Julianna Gamiz). It is soon apparent that the children's father is long gone, their mother Carla (Joselin Reyes) is in prison, and Lizzy has played substitute parent for years. The younger children have expected issues adjusting to their new home, and Lizzy begins acting out, leaving a family outing without telling her foster parents. Just as things appear to be improving, Carla is paroled and begins an action to regain custody of her children, which particularly upsets Ellie.

Although Instant Family is not always 100 percent successful in its goal to create an affecting drama with comedic elements about the foster and adoption process, its intentions seem pure. I like both Wahlberg and Byrne, and they make a believable couple. Moner, who worked with Wahlberg on Transformers: The Last Knight, commands the screen and reveals multiple layers of her character as the film progresses. The opening reel is spent showing some of the challenges the children create in the Wagner home. Lita refuses to eat and loves to scream, Juan apologizes for everything, and Lizzy projects anger about her biological mother's shortfalls onto Ellie. The movie also shows some of the smaller moments that cause friction in the foster and adoption process. Pete earns quick affection from Juan and seems to get through to Lizzy where Ellie cannot, and Ellie is upset that Carla wants to regain custody of her kids, despite the foster agency's assertions that reunification is always their first goal. Hearing this, and witnessing Carla's repeated instability, the Wagners start considering permanent adoption.

Byrne continues to be a master of reacting to the absurd, and brings the same, unexpectedly good, comedic timing to Instant Family that she brought to Neighbors. Wahlberg plays well with Byrne and keeps the film grounded in its more absurd physical comedy moments. Instant Family lays its pro foster/adopt agenda on a little thick at times, but it never undercuts the entertainment value here. Where the film ends up might not be a complete surprise, but the two-hour trip to get there is pleasant. It is also nice to see a movie about adoption where the child does not turn out to be the spawn of Satan or a serial killer. Yes, this movie has a message, but its first concern is pleasing its audience and it succeeds here.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

Paramount's 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is expectedly excellent, and Paramount continues to release some of the finest HD and 4K discs on the market. Bright, sharp and clear, this image excels at presenting fine-object detail and texture. Colors are clean and nicely saturated, black levels are steady and landscapes appear deep and clean, revealing only very minor noise in a few scenes.

SOUND:

The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix supports this largely dialogue-driven film appropriately. Said dialogue is clean and without distortion whether delivered from the center channel or surrounds. Light ambience, like crowd noise and weather, surrounds the viewer, and the accompanying soundtrack is appropriately mixed. French, Spanish and Portuguese 5.1 dubs are included, as are English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This two-disc "combo pack" includes the Blu-ray, a DVD copy and an HD digital copy. The discs are packed in a standard case that is wrapped in a slipcover. The disc offers a surprisingly stacked slate of extras: You get an Audio Commentary with Director/Writer Sean Anders and Writer John Morris; Mr. and Mrs. Fix-It (4:11/HD), about the events that inspired this film; Kid Power (9:08/HD), about the three child actors; I Need Some Support (5:17/HD), about the supporting cast; Order in the Court (3:53/HD), which takes you behind the scenes of an important moment in the film; The Families Behind the Fair (9:14/HD), which shows some of the real adoptive families used as extras; Crew Inspiration (4:59/HD), about a young woman who inspired the Lizzy character; The Anders Family (7:05/HD), about the director and his family; a Gag Reel (3:09:/HD); a Music Video for "I Stand" by Isabela Moner; an On Set Proposal (2:35/HD); and Deleted and Extended Scenes (10:11 total/HD).

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne lead this entertaining dramatic comedy about the challenges of fostering and adopting children. Instant Family lays on its message a bit thick at times, but its good nature and mix of laughs and heartfelt drama makes it Recommended.

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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