Directed by Sean Anders, Instant Family follows married couple Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) as they decide to foster three children (Isabela Moner’s Lizzy, Gustavo Quiroz’s Juan, and Julianna Gamiz’s Lita) – with the movie detailing the various complications that inevitably ensue. It’s an incredibly thin premise that’s clumsily (and infuriatingly) stretched out to fill an often interminable 118 minute (!) running time, as Anders, working from a script written with John Morris, delivers an eye-rollingly saccharine storyline that’s overrunning with misguided and deeply unfunny bits and set-pieces (including an ongoing gag involving a fellow foster parent’s desire to take in a Blind Side-esque budding athlete). The aggressively tedious atmosphere is compounded by a midsection that seems to consist solely of squabbling between Pete and Ellie and their newfound brood, while the complete and total lack of left turns within the narrative (ie this is about as paint-by-numbers as filmmaking gets) prevents one from working up an ounce of interest in or sympathy for the protagonists’ endeavors. The end result is a pandering (and ridiculously manipulative) trainwreck that’s consistently aiming for the absolute bottom of the barrel, which is a shame, ultimately, given the heartfelt nature of the picture’s subject matter (ie this could and should have been a compelling look at the difficulties and rewards that are part-and-parcel with a modern-day integrated family).
* out of ****