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Instant Family


Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Isabela Moner, Octavia Spencer, Tom Segura, Gustavo Quiroz, Julianna Gamiz, Margo Martindale, Julie Hagerty, Michael O'Keefe, Joan Cusack, Allyn Rachel, Andrea Anders, Tig Notaro

Director: Sean Anders

Ersatz emotions fill the screen in this based-on-truth (yet another one) story of a childless couple who adopt three mixed-race children.

The portrait of the adoption process seems close enough to the real thing, while the inevitable problems arise for Ellie (Byrne) and Pete (Wahlberg) when they foster - with a view to adoption - tantrum-throwing five-year-old Lita (Gamiz), accident-prone 10-year-old Juan (Quiroz) and typical 15-year-old Lizzy (Moner, the hostage girl from Sicario 2).

The 'adoption farm' could surely only take place in America, as the prospective parents are told to 'write down the name of any kid you might be interested in'.

Then there's the in-rehab birth mother (Britt Rentschler), who might be after the return of her children, and the circle of foster parents, which includes athetically-minded October (Iliza Shlesinger), who wants a prospective Olympian but still hasn't been matched with a child. Remarks another circle member: 'There's some good news then.'

Full of contrived arguments, the film isn't as touching as it might have been, but there are welcome screen returns for Martindale, as Pete's mother, and Hagerty, ditzy as ever nearly 40 years on from Airplane!, as Byrne's. With her unique personality, she all but steals the film.

David Quinlan

USA 2018. UK Distributor: Paramount. Colour by deluxe.
117 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.

Review date: 13 Feb 2019