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“Instant Family” will hit you right in the feels

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“Instant Family” will hit you right in the feels

courtesy of IMDb

courtesy of IMDb

courtesy of IMDb

Trevor Tyle, Life Editor

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You’ve probably heard the expression “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Sure, it’s a nice sentiment, but we’re all only human. We’ve all done it. Let’s face it — some things are just not appealing.

One of those things is the new film “Instant Family.” Watch the trailer, and you’ll think the same thing I did — “I know exactly how this movie’s going to go.” But thankfully, I was wrong this time. Yes, it’s predictable. Yes, it’s a tad cheesy. But “Instant Family” is also surprisingly well done.

Knowing “Instant Family” would be another collaboration between director Sean Anders and actor Mark Wahlberg, who previously worked on “Daddy’s Home,” I was mildly concerned, to say the least. Comical as the film and its sequel are, both films lack much substance, a trend I feared would be repeated on “Instant Family.”

But instead of partnering with the foolish Will Ferrell, Wahlberg opts for a slightly more serious partner-in-crime in Rose Byrne. The duo play Pete and Ellie Wagner, a couple that realizes something is missing in their lives. In spite of their own reservations, they begin researching children in foster care.

With the help of social workers Karen and Sharon (the impeccable Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro, respectively), Pete and Ellie meet Lizzy (Isabela Moner), a troubled Hispanic-American teen in the foster care system. When Pete and Ellie express interest in fostering her, they learn it’s a package deal — Lizzy has two younger siblings, the apprehensive Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and the seemingly sweet Lita (Julianna Gamiz).

Naturally, they take in all three children, and of course, chaos ensues. Juan is accident-prone to the max, Lita is loud and sassy, and Lizzy is a teenager — enough said. “Instant Family” follows Pete and Ellie’s trials and tribulations as they struggle to adapt to parenting while contemplating adoption. Matters are further complicated with the arrival of the children’s biological mother (Joselin Reyes), who has recently been released from prison and is looking to regain child custody.

More than anything else, “Instant Family” succeeds at painting a semi-vivid picture of foster care at its surface. While it may have glazed over the nitty-gritty details, it’s also a family-oriented film and, therefore, can only accomplish so much. It does its best to focus on the struggles of the whole family, but ends up largely focusing on the characters of Pete and Ellie, loosely based on Anders and his own wife’s fostering experience.

For the most part, Pete and Ellie are likable enough. But occasionally, they become unbearable, thanks to the screenplay’s desperate attempts to humanize them — which actually only dehumanizes them even more. One particular moment finds them feeling so distraught over their poorly behaved foster children that they consider abandoning the “assholes” right then and there — their words, not mine.

While the film is flawed, it largely succeeds where many expected it to fail, which is an accomplishment in and of itself. There’s a shockingly large amount of heart scattered throughout the film, perfectly blended with a magnificent combination of laughter-inducing and tear-jerking moments.

“Instant Family” isn’t groundbreaking. It’s a little oversaturated. And it’s far from phenomenal. But it’s generally well intentioned, and most definitely worth buying a ticket for.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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