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There's definitely a playbook to family comedies, and the industry isn't afraid to use it. Cute shenanigans occur, the jokes stay squarely in a non-offensive mode, and even the characters are safer than most fictional standards. While Instant Family doesn't totally break the conventions of the family comedy, it uses them to its advantage. As the film tells a story we've heard before, it switches up the formula with a bit more edge to its humor, without forgetting to add the heart.
Instant Family centers its story around Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne), a married couple that pretty much stumbles into the world of adoption on a dare. While not initially having an instinct to become parents, they eventually become the parents to three siblings (Isabelle Moner, Gustavo Quiroz, and Julianna Gamiz) who are in need of a new foster family. As everyone tries to get used to their new surroundings, awkward chaos ensues, and the patience of all involved is severely, but comedically, tested.
It's not the easiest thing in the world to balance multiple genres, even if it's one as well traveled as the dramatic comedy. So it's certainly a surprise that Instant Family works so well, as the film's twin columns of both laugh-out-loud and heartwarming moments are equally impressive.
With the film's story being based off of Sean Anders' own experiences with adoption, Instant Family is obviously a personal project for the man who brought us the Daddy's Home series. That personal experience seems to be the magic ingredient, as Instant Family is a vast improvement over those films, especially when it comes to its balancing act of tone.
Square at the center of this film are the twin camps of the parents, Pete and Ellie, and the trio of children they adopt into their house. On the parental side, Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne share a chemistry that's undeniable. Their timing and rhythm together works so well that they can sell both the outrageous gags and the smaller moments of emotional strife and victory with great results.
Not to mention, this is the most sensitive, and most balanced, performance we've seen Wahlberg deliver in quite some time. You believe it when his heart is broken on screen, and it in turn breaks your heart.
Even more impressive is the fact that the children, played by Isabelle Moner, Gustavo Quiroz, and Julianna Gamiz feel like actual siblings when they're together on screen. All three actors find their lanes quickly in Instant Family, and together they bring a lot of laughs in place of the traditional saccharine. That's not to say that they aren't sweet, but rather that they have more range than films of this ilk would allow them to engage in.
While it does feel like Instant Family breaks its fair share of new ground when it comes to family comedies, it does follow a basic chain of events. To be honest, the film kind of has to in order to work as a family comedy that everyone can enjoy, so it's not a terrible negative. There's room for improvement, as the story could surely be tighter. However, those small moments don't get in the way of Instant Family's ultimate execution of story, leaving the film to be vastly enjoyable.
It's about time the genre of the live-action family comedy got an update, and it's also the right time to start talking about adoption in a more realistic manner than most films in the past have done. Instant Family accomplishes both feats, with a respectful, yet entertaining, approach to a difficult subject.