“Instant Family” Has A Great Message But Not So Great Script

“Instant Family” stars Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, and Octavia Spencer in a film directed by Sean Anders, who shares co-writing credit with John Morris. Comedian Tig Notaro appears quite significantly as a social worker who helps facilitate adoptions. She is one half of an amusing double act with Spencer.  Notaro and Spencer were probably my favorite pairing in this particular film.  I had heard seen some slips of Notaro’s stand-up work, so I knew she could be funny. I suspect that her character in this film would not have worked quite as well without the always helpful presence of Octavia Spencer, who can often pretty much save a picture from being a total waste of time, in my estimation.

A rather hapless, impulsive couple decide to take on the noble act of foster parenting and of course find themselves in over their heads.  Wahlberg and Byrne are saddled with some fairly cliché roles in a film of this sort, however they are not devoid of any charm or cleverness.  The problem is that whatever wit this film manages to pull off does not stay consistent.  There are just some moments of utter stupidity.

The three children at the center of this thing are appropriately cute. Isabela Moner plays the oldest of the three children and is the typical overly rebellious teen-ager who has understandable trust issues.  The issue of these kids being Hispanic being fostered by a Caucasian couple had to be somewhat hammered home rather clumsily.  A scene where this was addressed between the couple and the social workers just came off as rather stupid, to be honest.  There did seem to be a bit of an over emphasis on this thing of adopting children of different ethnicities throughout the other characters who were entering this complex world of foster parenting.

Personally, I didn’t entirely dislike the movie, but I think it could have done with a little less corniness.  The casting was fine. Wahlberg has done movies of this sort before and can be rather amusing.  Byrne also performed reasonably well, but both leads could have used a better script, as with any competent actor.  There were some successful comedic moments, but there were other moments that just could have used a bit more subtlety.

It’s not a movie that I minded seeing very much, however whatever sentimentality or empathy I experienced while watching it isn’t likely to stay with me that long, which is a shame considering the message behind it is such an important one.

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