Instant Family Blu-ray Review
"You get reminded what a sack of **** you are five times a day, after a while you can't believe anybody could ever really love you."
Movies & TV reviewSRP: £14.99
Instant Family Film Review
Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne navigate the minefield of fostering in this lightweight dramedy which, unfortunately, favours cliche over complexity.Instant Family tries really hard, providing both fast-firing wit and punchy entertainment whilst also riding through the highs and very low lows of fostering and adoption, but frequently finding it hard to avoid just skirting across the surface of the real issues which it raises in favour of a cliched end result or a witty smart response. Thus, it lacks a genuine heart in its efforts to fake the magic that brings a family together.
The story follows Wahlberg and Byrne as a successful couple who realise one day that they may be just that tiny bit too old to have their own children, and that there are so many young children in need out there that they should perhaps try adoption, setting their sights on a teen girl who comes as a package deal with her two younger siblings. Initially throwing everything at the trio, the ride is not an easy one, with the couple determined to prove to these frequently rejected children that they are going to stick by them through thick and thin.
Providing fast-firing wit and punchy entertainment whilst also riding through the highs and lows of fostering
It's a sometimes awkward affair, injecting comedy - and sometimes slapstick humour - into an occasionally very serious story which tries its best to avoid going deep, skipping over the minefield of drug abuse, physical abuse, sexual predators, and child neglect in favour of the lighter, easier Hollywood ending to every single problem. Whilst it's well-meaning, it's also heavily contrived and perhaps even a little insulting towards those who actually have to go through fostering and adoption - whether as children or even as parents - painting the journey as one littered with bumps and problems that can each be solved by a (relatively) quick fix.
Wahlberg and starlet-in-the-making Isabela Moner previously paired for the painfully mind-numbing Transformers: The Last Knight and still have some warm chemistry here, whilst Byrne and Wahlberg generally make for an affable older couple, with Wahlberg himself basically playing Mark Wahlberg v 2.0 - just about the same performance he's delivered in 18 of the 20 films he's done in the last decade (feel free to swap this for Transformers or Daddy's Home 2 and see if you notice any difference) - and Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro (recently great in Star Trek: Discovery) on scene-stealing form as the foster group organisers.
It certainly means well and, as witty dramas about foster parenting go, this is probably as good as it gets. There are only a few moments of surprise unpredictability here, rendering not just a safe story structure, but also a painfully machine-made one, when there were actually plenty of opportunities to delve a little deeper and inject some genuine soul into this construct. Unfortunately, Instant Family prefers the lighter option, and thus remains a relatively entertaining, harmless, and immensely well-meaning but ultimately throwaway endeavour.
Instant Family Blu-ray PictureInstant Family comes to UK Region B-locked Blu-ray courtesy of Paramount, with what looks to be the exact same disc as their preceding US release, delivering a largely excellent 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen.
A hard to fault demo presentation
It's a modern, relatively glossy production, afforded largely excellent detailing, bringing forth the skin texture - and, shockingly, lines - on the faces of the two leads, the fabric of carpets, clothing weaves and all the nuances of the houses (particularly those which need fixing up). Clarity is superb throughout, bringing focus even on some quite interesting shots (spinning the camera from one face to the next), whilst the colour scheme pops with vivid and vibrant primaries (particularly at the adoption fair), rounded out with solid black levels that leave this a hard to fault demo presentation.
Instant Family Blu-ray SoundThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is a suitably engaging affair, gifted a functional but generic score, keen dialogue representation and nominal natural atmospherics; hardly demo-worthy but effective nonetheless, particularly during the more crowded sequences.
A generally very good audio track
Largely front-centric - mostly because it's largely dialogue-driven - the rattled-out wise-crack-dominated dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, whilst well-prioritised surround effects bring the more bustling moments to life, as kids scream around the soundscape, whether in a house or a park. The score is hardly eventful, but the song tracks peppered throughout are much more engaging, rounding out a generally very good audio track.
Instant Family Blu-ray ExtrasInstant Family comes with a whole slew of extra features, headlined by an Audio Commentary from the Director/co-writer and writer. The remainder of the extras are largely Featurette-driven, running from a couple of minutes in length to just under 10 minutes, looking at the origins of the story, how it was quite personal for some of the crew members behind it, and the real input from adopted children (and foster parents), as well as offering up some child audition clips, a look behind the round table 'therapy' sessions, and the courtroom sequence.
A whole slew of extra features
The extras package is rounded out by a Gag Reel, 10 minutes of Deleted and Extended Scenes, a Music Video, and a sweet proposal that happened on-set.
Instant Family Blu-ray VerdictAs witty dramas about foster parenting go, this is probably as good as it gets
Instant Family earns itself an identically great UK Blu-ray release from Paramount in comparison to the preceding US release, with excellent video, a strong audio track and a full package of extra features. It's a well-meaning film, which is a little light considering where the subject-matter could have gone but also strangely pushes the '12' envelope a little bit in terms of family entertainment, trying to be a bit of everything and thus not quite satisfying as anything.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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