Instant Family

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Instant Family
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySean Anders
Written by
Produced by
CinematographyBrett Pawlak
Edited byBrad Wilhite
Music byMichael Andrews
Leverage Entertainment
Closest to The Hole Productions
Two Grown Men Productions
Distributed byParamount Pictures[1]
Release date
  • November 16, 2018 (2018-11-16)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$48 million[2]
Box office$121 million[2]

Instant Family (Also known as 'Apprentis Parents') is a 2018 American biographical family comedy-drama film starring Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne as parents who adopt three siblings, played by Isabela Moner, Gustavo Quiroz, and Julianna Gamiz. Also starring Margo Martindale, Julie Hagerty, Tig Notaro, and Octavia Spencer, the film is directed by Sean Anders, who wrote the screenplay with John Morris, based in part on Anders' own experiences.

Instant Family was released in the United States on November 16, 2018. It grossed over $120 million worldwide, and was called an "earnest, heartwarming comedy" by critics, who also praised the performances.[3]


Husband and wife Pete and Ellie Wagner, derided by relatives who think they will never have children, consider adoption. They enroll in foster care, led by social workers Karen and Sharon. At a fair to meet foster children, Ellie voices her reluctance to foster/adopt a teen, when they are confronted by 15-year-old Lizzie, who impresses them.

Karen and Sharon reveal that Lizzie has two siblings, 10-year-old Juan and 6-year-old Lita, and their mother is a drug addict, in prison; if they want Lizzie, they must take Juan and Lita too. The Wagners' meeting with Lizzie and her siblings does not result in an immediate connection, making them reconsider. At Thanksgiving dinner with Ellie's family, Pete and Ellie say they have decided not to adopt. The family admits no one actually believed it would work out, so Pete and Ellie decide to officially adopt them.

Lizzie, Juan, and Lita move in with the Wagners, whose lives become hectic – Lita will only eat potato chips, Juan is extremely emotional and fragile, and Lizzie resents Ellie's attempts to parent them. The Wagners turn to a foster parent support group. Pete's mother Sandy wins the kids over by taking the family to Six Flags, but Lizzie disappears with friends and returns late, prompting Pete to ground her.

The next day, as Pete and Ellie confront Lizzie trying to leave with friends, Juan accidentally shoots a nail into his foot. Seeing Pete and Ellie rush Juan to the hospital and comfort Lita, Lizzie begins to warm up to them, and Pete invites her to vent her frustrations by demolishing the kitchen of the house he is renovating. Lita calls Pete "Daddy" after he fixes her doll during Lizzie's soccer practice. At night, Ellie walks into Juan and Lita's room, hearing Juan having a nightmare. After Ellie comforts him, Juan says, "Good night, Mommy." Ellie is overjoyed.

Pete and Ellie meet Carla, the kids' mother who is out of prison, wanting to reunite with her children. The Wagners express their feelings to the support group, but the social workers explain the system's main goal is to keep families together, and the children may be returned to their birth mother.

Carla's meetings with her children disrupt the Wagner household; the children become more unruly, leaving Pete and Ellie demotivated and frustrated. They are horrified to discover Lizzie taking naked pictures of herself to send to Jacob, her boyfriend at school, who sends her a 'dick pic'. Pete and Ellie seek out the Fernandez family, whose adoptive daughter Brenda had inspired them at their orientation. They learn Brenda is back in rehab, but Mr. and Mrs. Fernandez assure the Wagners that "things that matter are hard".

Taking the children to school the next day, Pete and Ellie confront a student named Charlie, mistakenly thinking he is Jacob, only to apologize for the mix-up when he tells them the truth; when Pete asks Charlie if he knows anyone named Jacob who's been hanging around Lizzie, Charlie points out Jacob is the school's 22-year-old janitor. They beat him up and he is arrested, as are Pete and Ellie, accidentally leaving Juan and Lita in the car unattended. Returning home after posting bail, Pete and Ellie are told by Sandy that they need to reassure Lizzie that they love her.

At the children's court hearing, the judge reads a statement from Lizzie, detailing Pete and Ellie's actions negatively. He refuses to let Ellie read her own statement, and the children are returned to Carla. Juan and Lita do not want to leave the Wagners, but Lizzie is ready. The next day, however, Karen and Sharon arrive and say that Carla never met them to pick up the kids, and they went to go find her. Carla told them she's not ready to take her kids back; it's revealed that Lizzie filled out the paperwork to reunite the family. Lizzie still believes they can go back, until Karen and Sharon reveal that Carla is using drugs again. Heartbroken and devastated by the news, Lizzie tearfully runs away as Pete and Ellie chase after her. They re-assure her that they love her, and the trio reconcile.

Four months later, the family is seen leaving the house to attend the court hearing that finalizes the adoption of Lizzie, Juan, and Lita. Whilst heading out, Lizzie shouts, "Mom, have you seen my phone?" referring to Ellie, suggesting that she had finally accepted Pete and Ellie as her parents. The family pose for a picture, joined by the judge, members of their extended family, and fellow foster families.



The film was inspired by Anders' own experiences fostering and then adopting three siblings. The children were aged 6 years, 3 years, and 18 months. Anders talked to other adoptive families and teenagers who had grown up in care and then been adopted in order to research the character of Lizzy.[4][5]

Rose Byrne joined the cast of the film on November 17, 2017.[6] Isabela Merced co-stars alongside Mark Wahlberg for a second time, after previously working together on Transformers: The Last Knight in 2017. Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro, Iliza Shlesinger, Gustavo Escobar (Gustavo Quiroz), Julianna Gamiz, and Tom Segura were added to the cast in February 2018, with filming beginning the following month, and lasting until May 14.[7][8]


Instant Family was originally scheduled for release in the United States on February 15, 2019, before being moved up three months, to November 16, 2018.[9] On November 10, 2018, it was announced the film's November 11 premiere in Los Angeles would be canceled due to the Woolsey Fire, but that a screening would take place at an evacuation center for victims of the fires.[10] Instant Family became available on Digital on February 19, 2019, and on DVD/Blu-Ray on March 5, 2019.[11]

Instant Family was rated PG in Australia and M in New Zealand.


Box office[edit]

Instant Family grossed $67.4 million in the United States and Canada, and $53.2 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $120.6 million, against a production budget of $48 million.[2]

In the United States and Canada, Instant Family was released alongside Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and Widows, and was projected to gross $15–20 million from 3,258 theaters in its opening weekend.[12] It made $4.8 million on its first day, including $550,000 from Thursday night previews. It went on to debut to $14.7 million, finishing fourth at the box office. Deadline Hollywood said the opening, compared to the $48 million budget, "isn't spectacular, but there's hope that [the] film could leg out...over Thanksgiving."[13] In its second weekend, the film dropped 14% to $12.5 million (including $17.4 million over the five-day Thanksgiving frame), finishing sixth.[14]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 81% based on 156 reviews and an average rating of 6.6/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Instant Family may not quite capture the complexity of real-life adoption, but fittingly for the unconditional bond it honors, this flawed yet well-intentioned dramedy is ultimately worth the investment."[15] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 57 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[16] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it an 83% overall positive score and a 61% "definite recommend".[13]


  1. ^ Frosch, Jon (November 14, 2018). "'Instant Family': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on November 14, 2018. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "Instant Family (2018)". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on December 11, 2017. Retrieved March 31, 2019.
  3. ^ Fujitani, Ryan (November 21, 2018). "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Could Use a Bit More Magic". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on November 16, 2018. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
  4. ^ Minow, Nell. "Sean Anders on the Real-Life Inspiration Behind Instant Family, Working with Mark Wahlberg and More | Interviews | Roger Ebert". Archived from the original on 12 January 2021. Retrieved 26 October 2021.
  5. ^ "How a joke led to fatherhood for 'Instant Family' writer". Archived from the original on 5 December 2020. Retrieved 26 October 2021.
  6. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (17 November 2017). "Rose Byrne Joins Mark Wahlberg In 'Instant Family' From Paramount". Archived from the original on 20 November 2017. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
  7. ^ "Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro Join Mark Wahlberg Comedy 'Instant Family' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. 23 February 2018. Archived from the original on 19 June 2018. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  8. ^ "Now Casting: Play a Couple in 'Instant Family' With Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne + 3 More Gigs". 1 March 2018. Archived from the original on 15 December 2018. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
  9. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (August 13, 2018). "Paramount Moves Mark Wahlberg Pic 'Instant Family' To Pre-Thanksgiving Frame". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on March 27, 2019. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  10. ^ Hayden, Erik (November 10, 2018). "Paramount Cancels 'Instant Family' Red Carpet in L.A. Amid Fires". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on November 11, 2018. Retrieved November 10, 2018.
  11. ^ "Instant Family DVD Release Date March 5, 2019". Archived from the original on 2019-01-26. Retrieved 2019-01-25.
  12. ^ Rubin, Rebecca (November 13, 2018). "Box Office: 'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald' Sequel Heads for $250 Million Global Launch". Variety. Archived from the original on November 14, 2018. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  13. ^ a b D'Alessandro, Anthony (November 16, 2018). "'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald' Steals $9.1M+ In Thursday Night Previews – Update". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on November 16, 2018. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  14. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (November 25, 2018). "'Ralph' Scoring 2nd Best Thanksgiving Debut With $84M+; 'Creed II' $55M+ Live-Action Champ; 'Robin Hood' Goes Wrong At $14M+". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on November 25, 2018. Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  15. ^ "Instant Family (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Archived from the original on 2020-11-28. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
  16. ^ "Instant Family reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on March 2, 2021. Retrieved March 23, 2019.

External links[edit]