Instant Family comes to us from the director of Daddy’s Home, and if you recoiled from that then you’re onto something. That’s not to poo poo all of Sean Anders’ filmography, he wrote Hot Tub Time Machine...and...okay, yeah, he has a far from stellar filmography other than that.
This is a film that really has the worst time establishing a tone. At times it wants to be the family comedy, at times it wants to be a family drama, at times it wants to be silly, at times it wants to be serious. The problem is that Instant Family flips all around the place sometimes in the same scene. You get such a massive mood whiplash it alienates you rather quickly.
A film around fostering children, you’ll have a scene that attempts at making jokes but halfway through you’ll suddenly be given speeches on how many kids are stuck in the system, or you’re given tales of kids being physically and sexually assaulted at such a young age. Which is a real thing that happens, but goddamn you’re not expecting to go through that scene seconds after a whole bunch of jokes don’t land. Instant Family feels like a movie that will finish with text over a black screen spouting more numbers to do with foster children, and it almost does, instead giving you a URL to check out.
Instant Family just doesn’t land in any sort of direction. Your mileage may vary, as seen by my entire screen laughing their asses of at actually unfunny jokes the majority of the time, and then myself laughing at the more effective or silly moments that try harder than your usual kid getting hit in the face with a ball.
The entire cast feels either wasted or not supposed to be there at all. It’s only strengths are funnily enough in the child actors, but everyone else seems to be phoning it in. Mark Wahlberg continues to fail under the hands of any bad director, Tig Notaro is criminally underused and ineffective, and there’s even the weirdest Joan Cusack cameo that goes on for too long and feels so damn awkward and unfunny that as this movie pushes two hours you’re about done with the bullshit.
At the heart of it, Instant Family comes from a good place. There have been similar and more effective stories told about this kind of thing, but Instant Family still tries to give it a go. And it is appalling what these kids go through, and it would be awesome if more people did what these fictional characters do. As a film...bloody hell its a goddamn garbage pile.
Instant Family has a scattered narrative, 5 out of a billon jokes that hit (there is admittedly a great zamboni sequence), actors that don’t want to be there, awful mood whiplash, awkward editing, and generally just a bad time at the movies. If you like family movie garbage, it’s up your street. It’s not the kind of bad you can rip into, it’s that kind of bad where you wonder how people in and making this movie thought it was a good idea.
Not the worst movie ever, but maybe the worst movie I’ve seen so far this year. Which doesn’t bode well for the next eleven months.