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Instant Family Blu-ray Review – Forming a Family is a Worthy Struggle

Pete and Ellie adopt three foster kids and form a loving family.

Reviewed by on Mar 04, 2019
Rating: 4 Star Rating

Kidzworld reviews the new Blu-ray for the dramedy Instant Family. Extras contain real foster kids and families with adopted kids. It takes love, not blood to form a family.

By: Lynn Barker

In Instant Family, childless couple Pete and Ellie Wagner (Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne) enroll in a foster parents’ course and consider adopting teen Lizzy (Isabela Moner) whose mom is in jail on drug charges. Turns out Lizzie has two younger siblings Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and Lita (Juliana Gamiz) so they take them all in. Juan is overly sensitive, Lita is hyper-active and picky with food and Lizzie is a little wild, hoping her druggie mom will clean up and take the kids back. After many ups and downs, the Wagners and kids become a family.

Instant Family Trailer

Ellie and Lizzy don't get along at firstEllie and Lizzy don't get along at first

Should We Adopt?

Couple Pete and Ellie Wagner are teased by relatives who are sure they will never have kids. After toying with the idea, the couple enrolls in a foster parents’ course where wacky social workers Karen (Octavia Spencer) and Sharon (Tig Notaro) teach them the steps to adoption.  The Wagners attend an adoption fair where they “shop” for kids. One of the teens, Lizzy lets them know that she realizes nobody wants to adopt the older kids. Her feisty attitude impresses the Wagners.

Karen helps the Wagners at the adoption fairKaren helps the Wagners at the adoption fair

A Teenager?

From Karen and Sharon, the Wagners learn that Lizzy’s mom is a jailed drug addict who set their home on fire with a crack pipe. Also, Lizzy has two younger siblings, Juan and Lita. They meet with the younger kids but it doesn’t seem to be a match. Pete and Ellie decide they might not adopt after all. At Thanksgiving dinner with Ellie’s relatives, the family acts relieved as if they knew the couple couldn’t handle it. Ellie is ticked off so decides to go through with at least the foster care program to prove she and Pete are worthy to adopt.

Ellie and Pete are a happy couple who want kidsEllie and Pete are a happy couple who want kids

At Home with the Wagners

Lizzy, Juan, and Lita move in with the Wagners. It’s touchy but pleasant enough at first but cracks show when Lita won’t eat anything but potato chips and Juan freaks out and cries when the least little thing goes wrong. Lizzie acts out and is especially bratty to Ellie. The couple goes to several support groups for adoptive parents and hear touching, hilarious and upsetting adoption stories. They hope to get help as to how to handle the kids. Pete’s sweet but overbearing mom Sandy (Margo Martindale) comes to meet the kids and wins them over with a trip to Six Flags theme park. Lizzie takes off with two pals from her school and doesn’t come back for quite a while so Pete grounds her.

Grandma Sandy spoils the new grandkidsGrandma Sandy spoils the new grandkids

Growing Closer

Lizzy is still angry/bratty but Juan and Lita start to warm up to the Wagners. Lita calls Pete "daddy" when he fixes her doll, and Ellie gets a "Good night, mommy" from Juan after she comforts him from a nightmare. Lizzy’s angry façade starts to crack and she joins in, having a blast when Pete takes her to a fixer-upper house he is renovating and lets her take out her frustration with a sledge hammer. Just when things are working, Pete and Ellie learn that the kids’ mom Carla (Joselin Reyes) is out of jail and wants to see her kids. Since the foster system really wants to keep families together, Carla might get her kids back!

Lizzy is enrolled in a new schoolLizzy is enrolled in a new school

Things Fall Apart

The influence of Carla makes the kids act out more. Lizzy secretly gets attached to the school’s 20-something janitor and it looks like Carla might get her kids back. Will she start using again? Will Pete and Ellie give up or will they retain their “new” family?

Ellie tries to make friends with LizzyEllie tries to make friends with Lizzy

Bonus Extras

The Instant Family Blu-ray contains quite a few extras that mostly deal with the real foster system and real foster families. We learn that Director/screenwriter Sean Anders adopted foster kids and that the film is basically his true story. Cool! We get comments from the actors and see the kids’ audition tapes, etc.

  • Mr. and Mrs. Fix-It deals with the story and how it is based on the director’s real life.
  • Kid Power focuses on the casting of the kids in the film and what each young actor brought to the part. We see their audition tapes. Nice.
  • I Need Some Support lets us know about real life foster parents support groups and how the funny meetings in the film were formed. Actresses Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro talk about playing social workers Karen and Sharon.
  • Order In the Court focuses on the adoption hearing scene and real foster kids who need homes.
  • The Families Behind the Fair takes you to the adoption fair in the movie where real families used as extras talk about adopting and the kids talk about blending in. Really touching.
  • Crew Inspiration spotlights the real teen adoptive kids, some grown now, who inspired the story of the Lizzy character. Some ended up as advisors on the movie. Crewmembers who were adopted speak up.

Director Sean works with kid actors playing Juan and LitaDirector Sean works with kid actors playing Juan and Lita
  • The Anders Family further focuses on the director’s real-life family with three adopted kids. This experience made the film authentic. Sweet
  • Gag Reel is the usual flubbed lines but mostly dancing on set, planes messing up takes, etc.
  • Music Video: Isabela Moner Sings “I’ll Stay” – the teen actress has a nice voice. This is a sweet song.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – These are with director/producer intros. All are very sweet scenes mostly cut for time. Worth a watch.
  • An On Set Proposal is sweet as a crew member acting as Wahlberg’s stand-in, proposes to the girl who is Rose Byrnes’ stand in on set.
  • Audio Commentary by director/writer Sean Anders and writer John Morris gives insider notes. Worth a watch.

Director Sean Anders with Octavia SpencerDirector Sean Anders with Octavia Spencer

Wrapping Up

Whether you are adopted or not you probably have a friend or know someone who is. Instant Family is funny, totally kid-teen relatable and is heartwarming as some kids who don’t seem to have a chance get united with two unsure but loving adults to form a great family after trials and trouble unite them. Really nice entertainment for the whole family and seems extra real because the story is based on the real life of the director. Acting is really believable all around.

Pete tries bonding with JuanPete tries bonding with Juan

This DVD/Blu-ray/Digital set is crisp and clear and the extras, many drawn from real life adoption processes and stories, are worthy and well-worth watching. We can go four stars.

Instant Family Blu-ray Rating: 4

Instant Family Blu-ray and DVD Cover Art

Buy Instant Family to take home March 5th

What About Adoption?

Do you have an adoption story to tell? Can you relate to any of the happenings in the movie? Are you into Mark Wahlberg or 17-year-old Isabela Moner? Talk about it all with a comment below and/or on your Kidzworld profile page.