‘Instant Family’ comedy teaches about ‘love, family, and service’

Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne in "Instant Family" from Paramount Pictures. Photo: Paramount Pictures

I will confess going into the viewing of Instant Family I was a little skeptical of what the comedy film that hits theaters on Nov. 16 would be. Would it be as funny as I wanted it to be? Would there be touching moments and life lessons? Would I like and believe the actors in their roles? The answer to these questions is a resounding yes!

Octavia Spencer, Rose Byrne, and Mark Wahlberg in “Instant Family” from Paramount Pictures. Photo: Paramount Pictures

Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne are wonderful as Pete and Ellie, the house- flipping childless couple who decide they would like to adopt a child. They are led through the foster process by Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro who both offer the right balance of reality and humor to their roles as Karen and Sharon, the children’s welfare officers.

Then there are the kids. The teenager they want to adopt is Lizzy who seems to have the right fit for them and the excitement is then tempered by the fact that Lizzy has two younger siblings: Juan who is a frightened and sensitive young man, and Lita who is a combination of sweetness and raw terror played for humor.

Lizzy and her siblings initially seem too good to be true. Pete and Ellie are getting smug at how awesome a job they are doing as parents and they tell their support group as much, causing much laughter and derision. Just as the group predicted the kids were in their honeymoon phase, their true personalities begin to emerge.

Lizzy is rebellious. Juan is afraid of his own shadow and any criticism, and Lita has a very funny scene where a fire on a birthday cake leads to her having ash on her face and she’s holding a knife that frightens Pete very comically. Rose Byrne is a real treat as Ellie. She’s not sure she wants to be a mother but jumps right in when it is clear that they will be fostering the three siblings. Byrne’s comic timing is great and she plays well off of Wahlberg who seems intent on being a comic actor.

Isabela Moner, Gustavo Quiroz, Julianna Gamiz, Mark Wahlberg, and Rose Byrne in “Instant Family” from Paramount Pictures. Photo: Paramount Pictures

Isabela Moner, the young actress who plays Lizzy, is a true star in the making. Her ability to keep up with her elder cast mates is amazing and I have a feeling we may see more from her in the future. The cast member who almost steals the whole movie is Margo Martindale who plays Grandma Sandy, Pete’s mom. Her unconditional love of her new grandkids and her willingness to spoil them with gifts and outings is infectious and hysterical all at once.

Needless to say, lots of misadventures loom, and some are more serious than others, but the lessons learned about love, family, and service are front and center and that I really found to be heartwarming.

I hope that folks give Instant Family a chance because it is hilarious in parts and will bring a tear to the eye in other places. I really enjoyed this movie and would recommend it as a great date night movie for mom and dad.

Pete and Ellie learn the ultimate lesson of life that to serve doesn’t mean you are giving a great gift as much as you are receiving a great gift. As we enter the holiday season I cannot think of a better lesson than that one.

Rated PG-13

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