Review: Big-hearted comedy 'Instant Family' opens its arms

Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne go from a couple to a family of five in this tender comedy

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne in "Instant Family."

A married couple decides to adopt three children — a teenager and her two younger siblings — in "Instant Family," a big hug of a holiday movie that hangs on a little too tightly for a little too long. 

But as compassionate, well-meaning family comedies go, this one's harmless, and warm enough to cozy up to.

Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne are Pete and Ellie, who look into adopting a teen to jump-start the family process and avoid those icky baby years. When they meet Lizzy (Isabela Moner, Nickelodeon's "100 Things to Do Before High School"), she's a package deal, and the couple suddenly becomes a family of five when they also take on Lizzy's little brother Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and little sister Lita (Julianna Gamiz).

Lizzy is a joy at first, helpful and respectful, but Pete and Ellie's limits are tested when she begins, you know, acting like an actual teenager. 

Based on co-writer and director Sean Anders' (the "Daddy's Home" movies) real-life experience, "Instant Family" is a comedy first and foremost; Pete and Ellie regularly attend group meetings for other foster parents that function as roasts for the audience more than therapy sessions for the characters. 

But despite a climax that is so touchy-feely it defies reason — if "The Skeleton Twins" redeemed Starship's "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" from the depths of the cheese shlock abyss, "Instant Family" sinks it right back to the bottom — "Instant Family's" heart is in the right place. It celebrates and honors the family unit, and at a time when many families are being torn apart, there's something to be said for a spirit of togetherness.


'Instant Family'


Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual material, language and some drug references

Running time: 120 minutes