Instant Family

Instant Family

2018, PG-13, 119 min. Directed by Sean Anders. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro, Isabela Moner, Margo Martindale, Eve Harlow, Gustavo Quiroz.

REVIEWED By Matthew Monagle, Fri., Nov. 16, 2018

Ellie (Byrne) and Pete (Wahlberg) have reached a very comfortable spot in their lives. After years of struggling to turn their remodeling business into something profitable, they’re now at the point where they can sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor. So when Ellie suggests that they look into adoption as a possible next step, neither of them are too daunted by the idea of bringing a small child into their lives. It’s only when they are smitten with 15-year-old Lizzy (Moner) and her two young siblings that they realize how simple things were before and how difficult their life is about to get.

Based on the real-life adoption experiences of writer/director Anders, Instant Family sets out to soften the edges of a difficult process for multiplex audiences across the country. There’s no shortage of charm on display throughout the film; as a couple, Pete and Ellie offer the right balance of compassion and ignorance, and co-screenwriters John Morris and Anders’ script never shies away from showing the most selfish parts of their transition from self-reliance to parenthood. There's also a slew of likable and recognizable performers (actors like Octavia Spencer, Margo Martindale, and Tig Notaro) in supporting roles, who move the story along considerably just by being amplified versions of themselves onscreen. As the story of two parents going through the adoption process, the movie has a few nice things to say about stepping outside your own comfort zone to make a difference in the lives of others.

However, the challenge – the one this film proves incapable of overcoming – is how you marry a broad family comedy with the endless complexity of the adoption process. Take the children’s birth mother. When she reappears in her children’s lives halfway through the movie, Instant Family makes a series of sobering observations on how her presence confuses the youngest children and causes them to act out at home. But her presence also backs the film into an inescapable corner: How can Instant Family offer a crowd-pleasing happy ending if Pete and Ellie lose their foster children? Like many things in this movie, the answer to this question is far less interesting than the question itself, and Anders’ film chooses – as it also does with questions of ethnicity – to awkwardly sidestep some of the issues raised by its own pursuit of authenticity.

Those looking for a family comedy aimed at adults could do a lot worse than Instant Family, but the demands of a wide release have sapped much of the film’s dramatic potential. I can’t help but wonder what kind of movie Anders might’ve made if he’d been a little less worried with commercial success.

Showtimes

Barton Creek Square (AMC)

2901 South Capital of Texas Hwy, 512/306-1991, www.amctheatres.com

Matinee discounts available before 4pm daily. Bring Your Baby matinees the first Tuesday of every month.

Tue., Dec. 18

CC/DVS 3:00, 9:00

Cinemark 20 and XD

N. I-35 & FM 1825, 512/989-8535

Cost for 3-D and XD shows is regular ticket price plus a premium.

Tue., Dec. 18

digital 1:35, 4:35, 7:35, 10:35

Cinemark Cedar Park

1335 E. Whitestone, Cedar Park, 800/326-3264

Call theatre for complete list of movies and showtimes.

Tue., Dec. 18

digital 10:40am, 1:30, 4:20, 7:15, 10:05

Tue., Dec. 18

digital 10:35am, 1:35, 4:40, 7:40, 10:40

Cinemark Round Rock

4401 N. I-35, Round Rock, 800/326-3264

Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium. Call theatre for complete March 26-28 showtimes.

Tue., Dec. 18

digital 1:50, 4:40, 7:35, 10:30

Cinemark Southpark Meadows

9900 S. I-35, 800/326-3264

Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Tue., Dec. 18

digital 10:10am, 12:55, 3:50, 6:40, 9:35

Wed., Dec. 19

digital 10:10am, 12:55, 3:50, 6:40, 9:35

Cinemark Stone Hill Town Center

18820 Hilltop Commercial Dr., 512/251-0938, www.cinemark.com

Tue., Dec. 18

digital 12:30, 3:50, 6:40

Wed., Dec. 19

digital 12:30, 3:50, 6:40

City Lights Theatre

420 Wolf Ranch Parkway, Georgetown, 512/868-9922

Tue., Dec. 18

12:50, 4:10, 6:55, 9:50

Wed., Dec. 19

12:50, 4:10, 6:55, 9:50

EVO Entertainment

3200 Kyle Crossing, Kyle, 512/523-9009, www.evo-entertainment.com

Tue., Dec. 18

1:00, 3:45, 6:30, 9:15

Galaxy Highland 10

6700 Middle Fiskville, 512/467-7305, www.galaxytheatres.com

No one under 18 will be allowed in the theatre on Friday or Saturday after 7pm without an adult.

Tue., Dec. 18

CC 12:10, 3:05

Wed., Dec. 19

CC 3:05, 9:35

Thu., Dec. 20

CC 12:10

Gateway Theatre

9700 Stonelake, 512/416-5700

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Tue., Dec. 18

CC/DVS 12:10, 3:40, 7:10, 10:20

Wed., Dec. 19

CC/DVS 12:10, 3:40, 7:10, 10:20

AMC Lakeline 9

11200 Lakeline Mall Dr., Cedar Park, 512/335-4793

Discounts daily before 6pm.

Tue., Dec. 18

CC/DVS 3:15, 6:30

Metropolitan

901 Little Texas, 512/447-0101

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Tue., Dec. 18

CC/DVS 1:35, 4:40, 7:35, 10:30

Wed., Dec. 19

CC/DVS 1:35, 4:40, 7:35, 10:30

Thu., Dec. 20

CC/DVS 1:35, 4:40, 7:35, 10:30

Moviehouse & Eatery

8300 N. FM 620, Bldg. B, 512/501-3520, www.themoviehouse.com/trails/

Tue., Dec. 18

9:45am, 1:00, 4:15, 7:30

Moviehouse & Eatery - Lantana Place

7415 Southwest Parkway, Building 7, 512/572-0770, www.themoviehouse.com/lantana/

Tue., Dec. 18

10:55am, 4:15, 7:30, 9:10

ShowBiz Cinemas 8 Marble Falls

2600 Hwy 281 North, Marble Falls

Call theatre for August 22-23 showtimes.

Tue., Dec. 18

2:20, 5:10, 7:50

Wed., Dec. 19

11:40am, 2:20, 5:00, 7:50

Thu., Dec. 20

11:40am, 2:20, 5:00

Sky Cinemas

13201 US-290, 512/457-0700, www.skycinemas.com

Tue., Dec. 18

11:50am, 2:35, 6:35, 9:15

Starplex 12 San Marcos

1250 Wonder World Drive, San Marcos, 512/805-8000

Tue., Dec. 18

11:30am, 2:20, 6:20, 10:45

Wed., Dec. 19

12:30, 4:00, 7:00, 9:45

Thu., Dec. 20

11:30am, 2:20

Westgate 11

4477 S. Lamar, 512/899-2717

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Tue., Dec. 18

CC/DVS 11:15am, 1:55, 4:35, 7:15, 9:55

Wed., Dec. 19

CC/DVS 11:30am, 2:10, 4:50, 7:30, 10:10

Thu., Dec. 20

CC/DVS 11:15am, 1:55, 4:35

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READ MORE
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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Instant Family, Sean Anders, Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro, Isabela Moner, Margo Martindale, Eve Harlow, Gustavo Quiroz

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