Thursday, April 4, 2019

Instant Family Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne star in the heartwarming comedy/drama, Instant Family. The film follows the couple through their adoption from foster care. Instant Family is available to own on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy.

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and his wife Ellie (Rose Byrne) haven’t thought much about having kids. When the topic comes up Pete jokes they should just get a five-year-old because he’s already a bit older than he’d want to be when starting a family. Pete comes home to find Ellie crying at her laptop looking at pictures of foster kids that need homes. Pete says he doesn’t want to see the website and explains that he was joking. A few moments later, a curious Pete is looking at the same photos. Before you know it, the couple is sitting in a class for prospective foster parents. 

Social workers Karen (Octavia Spencer) and Sharon (Tig Notaro) have very different outlooks. They are there to shepherd new parents through the process and hopefully create new families. At a placement fair, Ellie and Pete are overwhelmed. They see a group of teenagers being ignored because everyone wants younger kids and they loudly consider talking to the teenagers. 16-year-old Lizzie (Isabella Moner) steps up to tell the couple that all the teens can hear their debate and that they should move along and find a young cute kid to suit their needs, with no hard feelings. 

The spunky teenager makes in impact and Pete and Ellie end up fostering her and her siblings. Lizzie is a handful. She is opinionated and has a lot of attitude. Her little brother Juan (Gustavo Quiroz, Jr.) and sister Lita (Julianna Gamiz) aren’t any easier to deal with. The new family experiences a brief honeymoon period where everything is wonderful but soon the house is in chaos. Lizzie still holds out hope for a reunification with their drug-addicted mother. Ellie and Pete must decide how hard they will fight for their new family. With the help of Sharon, Karon and a support group of foster families, they will go through a lot to learn that family is not about blood.

My expectations for this film were off. I thought it was a comedy, like Wahlberg’s other film Daddy’s Home and Daddy’s Home 2. The Daddy’s Home films are comedies with some sweet moments. Instant Family is a drama with a few laughs. That said, it doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the film. I did, I just didn’t know to expect such a tearjerker. The film is very well cast. The comic relief comes in the form of social workers Sharon and Karen, very different Grandmas, and a random neighbor who gets too involved in their family drama. Everything about this works, including Mark Wahlberg, whose performance style I usually find off-putting. There is an authentic feel to the writing and the characters. It’s no surprise to learn that it was written and directed by a foster father with a story like that in the film. The bonus features point out that almost everyone who worked on and was seen in the film has a foster connection.

I wouldn’t be surprised if people watched this film and started down the process of fostering to adopt the next day. The other side of that coin is the fact that the movie is predictable. I argue that most films are. It’s rare to see something surprising these days. The target audience is the type to enjoy a good tearjerker and one that will fall in love with the family and be waiting eagerly to see their journey. The type of person that will pick this apart won’t love the characters and will complain that they knew where it was going from the first moments.
Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Instant Family’s Blu-ray looks clear and crisp. Details in clothing and other textures are authentic. Skin tones are accurately represented. The placement fair offers a range of colors to enjoy. The home renovation shows detail in paint chips and dirt/dust. The digital noise is brief and not bothersome to the experience.
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
The DTS Master Audio 7.1 sound allows Lita’s high-pitched screams to pierce every ear in your home. Music and other audio elements are basic and not taxing to your theater system. Thunder and rain are realistic. Glass breaking is consistent with what you’d expect. Dialogue is intelligible and centered.
Extras (4 out of 5 stars)
The Blu-ray disc contains a substantial list of bonus content with as much heart as the film itself.
  • Commentary by Director/Writer Sean Anders and Writer John Morris
  • Mr. and Mrs. Fix It (4:11) – An introduction to the story and the personal connection with the Writer/Director. 
  • Kid Power (9:08) – This featurette focuses on the three children in the film. Cast and crew discuss working with the kids. Includes audition footage.
  • I Need Some Support (5:18) – The support group and the importance of laughter. A look at social workers Karen and Sharon who are there to shepherd the couple through the process.
  • Order in the Court (3:53) – Shooting the adoption hearing, one of the film’s sweetest moments.
  • The Families Behind the Fair (9:14) – Real foster families, which appeared in the foster fair scenes.
  • Crew Inspiration (4:59) – The crew shares their own foster care connections.
  • The Anders Family (7:05) – A look at the Writer/Director’s real-life family, which started with a joke.
  • Gag Reel (3:10) – On set antics from cast and crew.
  • Isabella Moner “I’ll Stay” – Promotional Music Video (3:36) – The film’s teenage star sings.
  • On Set Proposal (2:36) - A real life proposal that was elaborately set up.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes – Five scenes with optional introduction by Sean Anders and John Morris: First Family Dinner, First Day of School, Pete’s Got Problems, I Like Her – Extended, and I Love the Black.

Summary (4 out of 5 stars)
Instant Family isn’t just a chick flick. The target audience is the person who enjoys the truly sappy chick flicks. The tearjerker moments are certainly manufactured but the film has a lot of heart. You can tell it was made by people who care about the issue of foster care and adoption. The Blu-ray offers substantial supplemental features, which fans will find as enjoyable as the film itself.

Order your copy today!

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