REVIEW: ‘Instant Family’ has a great message, even if it’s not squeaky-clean

Sometimes, a serious topic is best conveyed on the big screen with a smile and a laugh. That’s because some topics are packed with so many emotions that a drama — and its somber tone — just won’t cut it.  

That’s certainly true with foster care and adoption, which are the subject of the new comedy Instant Family (PG-13) starring Mark Wahlberg (Deepwater Horizon) as an adoptive father named Pete and Rose Byrne (Peter Rabbit) as the adoptive mom, Ellie. The movie conveys the gamut of emotions that a foster/adoptive family experiences — including fear, anxiety and, most importantly, joy — but tells the story through the lens of laughter.

You’ll be filled with the positive emotions that writer/director Sean Anders wanted to convey. He and his wife adopted three children through the foster care system about seven years ago. The movie was inspired by his story.

Nothing about foster care is sugar coated, yet you won’t walk out of the theater depressed, either. Instead, you’ll be filled with the positive emotions that writer/director Sean Anders wanted to convey. He and his wife adopted three children through the foster care system about seven years ago. The movie was inspired by his story.

“When we were dealing with some of the more dramatic elements [in the movie], we still found a way where either the characters were able to laugh or the audience was able to laugh along,” he told One Christian Voice. “That’s a very real part of the process.”

Even during the tough times of foster care and adoption, he said, “you gotta laugh.”

The movie follows Pete and Ellie as they transform from a work-centric couple who never want to have children, to a couple who want to adopt three siblings: a teenage girl and her younger brother and sister. The film succeeds because it doesn’t shy away from the truth: Foster care and adoption aren’t easy, even if they are filled with blessings.

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” Romans 8:15

We witness their struggles (the teen girl initially doesn’t accept their authority) and their victories (the young girl is quick to call them mom and dad).     

An estimated 500,000 children and youth are in the foster care system at any one moment. Anders hopes the movie helps put a dent in that stat.

But the movie isn’t without its flaws. It has quite a bit of language. It also teaches that all parenting structures are equal, contrary to what Scripture says. (A gay couple plays a somewhat prominent role).

Still, the film’s pro-adoption message is one that Christians can embrace. After all, we, too, were adopted by God (Romans 8:15, Ephesians 2:3-5, Ephesians 1:5).

I laughed a lot during Instant Family. And cried some, too.

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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

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