Instant Family is a 2018 American family comedy-drama film starring Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne as parents who adopt three siblings, played by Isabela Merced, Gustavo Quiroz, and Julianna Gamiz. Also starring Margo Martindale, Julie Hagerty, Tig Notaro, and Octavia Spencer, the film is directed by Sean Anders, who wrote the screenplay with John Morris, based in part on Anders' own experiences.
|Directed by||Sean Anders|
|Edited by||Hannah Pawlak|
|Music by||Michael Andrews|
Closest to The Hole Productions
Two Grown Men Productions
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$120.6 million|
Instant Family was released in the United States on November 16, 2018. It grossed over $120 million worldwide, and was called an "earnest, heartwarming comedy" by critics, who also praised the performances.
Husband and wife Pete and Ellie Wagner, derided by relatives who think they will never have children, consider adoption. They enroll in foster care, led by social workers Karen and Sharon. At a fair to meet foster children, Ellie voices her reluctance to foster/adopt a teen, and is confronted by 15-year-old Lizzie, who impresses Pete and Ellie.
Karen and Sharon reveal that Lizzie has two siblings, 10-year-old Juan and 6-year-old Lita, and their mother is a drug addict, currently in prison. The Wagners’ meeting with Lizzie and her siblings does not result in an immediate "cosmic connection," leading them to reconsider. At Thanksgiving dinner with Ellie's family, Pete and Ellie explain they have decided not to adopt. The family admits that no one really believed they should adopt, which spurs Ellie to go through with fostering the siblings.
Lizzie, Juan, and Lita move in with the Wagners, whose lives become hectic – Lita refuses to eat anything but potato chips, Juan is extremely emotional, and Lizzie resents Ellie's attempts to parent them. The Wagners turn to the support group of their fellow foster parents. Pete's mother Sandy wins the siblings over by taking the family to Six Flags, but Lizzie disappears with friends and returns late, prompting Pete to ground her.
One day, as Pete and Ellie confront Lizzie trying to leave with friends, Juan accidentally shoots a nail into his foot. Seeing Pete and Ellie rush Juan to the hospital and comfort Lita, Lizzie begins to warm up to them, and Pete invites her to vent her frustrations by demolishing the kitchen of the house he is renovating. Lita calls Pete "Daddy" after he fixes her doll during Lizzie's soccer practice. At night, Ellie walks into Juan and Lita's room, hearing Juan having a nightmare. After Ellie comforts him, Juan says, “Good night, Mommy.” Ellie is overjoyed by this.
Pete and Ellie meet Carla, the siblings’ mother, who has been released from prison and wants to reunite with her children. The Wagners express their feelings to the support group, but the social workers explain the system's main goal is to keep families together, and the children could be returned to their biological mother.
Carla's meetings with her children disrupt the Wagner household; the children become more unruly, leaving Pete and Ellie demotivated and frustrated. They are horrified to discover Lizzie taking naked pictures of herself to send to someone at school named Jacob, who sends her a naked photo of his genitals. Pete and Ellie seek out the Fernandez family, whose adoptive daughter Brenda had inspired them at their orientation. They learn that Brenda is back in rehab, but Mr. and Mrs. Fernandez assure the Wagners that “things that matter are hard.”
Taking the children to school the next day, Pete and Ellie confront a student named Charlie, mistakenly thinking he is Jacob, only to apologize for the mix-up when he tells them the truth; when Pete asks Charlie if he knows anyone named Jacob who's been hanging around Lizzie, Charlie points out Jacob to be the school's 22-year-old janitor. They beat up Jacob and he is arrested, as are Pete and Ellie, accidentally leaving Juan and Lita in the car unattended. Returning home after posting bail, Pete and Ellie are told by Sandy that they need to reassure Lizzie that they love her.
At the children's court hearing, the judge reads a statement from Lizzie, detailing Pete and Ellie's actions in a negative light. He refuses to let Ellie read her own statement, and the children are returned to Carla's care. Juan and Lita do not want to leave the Wagners, but Lizzie is ready. The next day, Karen and Sharon arrive to inform Lizzie and her siblings that Carla is not coming for them, having failed to appear that morning. They also reveal that, after going to her home to see her, it appears that Carla is using drugs again and claimed Lizzie was the one who filled out all of the paperwork. Heartbroken, Lizzie runs away, but Pete and Ellie chase after her. They re-assure her that they love her, and the trio reconcile.
Four months later, the family attends a new court hearing, where the judge finalizes Pete and Ellie's adoption of Lizzie, Juan, and Lita. They all pose for a picture, joined by their families and fellow foster families.
- Mark Wahlberg as Peter "Pete" Wagner
- Rose Byrne as Elinore "Ellie" Wagner
- Isabela Merced as Elizabeth "Lizzy" Wagner, 15-years old and the oldest sibling.
- Gustavo Escobar as Juan Wagner, 10-years old and the middle sibling.
- Julianna Gamiz as Lita Wagner, 6-years old and the youngest sibling.
- Octavia Spencer as Karen, the other social worker who guides the parents-to-be through the foster care process
- Tig Notaro as Sharon, one of the social workers who guide the parents-to-be through the foster care process
- Margo Martindale as Sandy Wagner, Pete's overbearing and goodhearted mother
- Julie Hagerty as Jan, Ellie's soft spoken and naive mother
- Michael O'Keefe as Jerry, Ellie's father
- Tom Segura as Russ, Kim's husband
- Allyn Rachel as Kim, Ellie's sister
- Iliza Shlesinger as October
- Valente Rodriguez as Judge Martin T. Rivas, the Adoption Court Judge
- Charlie McDermott as Stewart, Pete's co-worker
- Carson Holmes as Charlie
- Nicholas Logan as Jacob
- Joselin Reyes as Carla
- Eve Harlow as Brenda
- Andrea Anders as Jessie
- Gary Weeks as Dirk
- Joan Cusack as Mrs. Howard
- Adam Sandler as Simon Jenson (uncredited, post credits).
The film was inspired by Anders' own experiences fostering and then adopting three siblings. The children were 6 years old, 3 years old and 18 months. Anders talked to other adoptive families and teenagers who had grown up in care and then been adopted in order to research the character of Lizzy.
Rose Byrne joined the cast of the film on November 17, 2017. Isabela Moner co-stars alongside Mark Wahlberg for a second time, after previously working together on Transformers: The Last Knight in 2017. Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro, Iliza Shlesinger, Gustavo Escobar (Gustavo Quiroz), Julianna Gamiz, and Tom Segura were added to the cast in February 2018, with filming beginning the following month, and lasting until May 14.
Instant Family was originally scheduled for release in the United States on February 15, 2019, before being moved up three months, to November 16, 2018. On November 10, 2018, it was announced the film's November 11 premiere in Los Angeles would be canceled due to the Woolsey Fire, but that a screening would take place at an evacuation center for victims of the fires. Instant Family became available on Digital on February 19, 2019, and on DVD/Blu-Ray on March 5, 2019.
Instant Family was rated PG in Australia and M in New Zealand.
Instant Family grossed $67.4 million in the United States and Canada, and $53.2 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $120.6 million, against a production budget of $48 million.
In the United States and Canada, Instant Family was released alongside Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and Widows, and was projected to gross $15–20 million from 3,258 theaters in its opening weekend. It made $4.8 million on its first day, including $550,000 from Thursday night previews. It went on to debut to $14.7 million, finishing fourth at the box office. Deadline Hollywood said the opening, compared to the $48 million budget, "isn't spectacular, but there's hope that [the] film could leg out...over Thanksgiving." In its second weekend, the film dropped 14% to $12.5 million (including $17.4 million over the five-day Thanksgiving frame), finishing sixth.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 81% based on 145 reviews and an average rating of 6.56/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Instant Family may not quite capture the complexity of real-life adoption, but fittingly for the unconditional bond it honors, this flawed yet well-intentioned dramedy is ultimately worth the investment." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 57 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it an 83% overall positive score and a 61% "definite recommend."
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