Instant Family

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Instant Family
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySean Anders
Produced by
Written by
  • Sean Anders
  • John Morris
Music byMichael Andrews
CinematographyBrett Pawlak
Edited byBrad Wilhite
  • Closest to the Hole Productions[1]
  • Leverage[1]
  • Two Grown Men[1]
Distributed byParamount Pictures[1]
Release date
  • November 16, 2018 (2018-11-16)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$48 million[2]
Box office$120.6 million[2]

Instant Family is a 2018 American comedy film starring Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne as parents who adopt three young children, played by Isabela Moner, Gustavo Escobar (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, taunted 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 adopt a teen, and is confronted by 15-year-old Lizzy, who impresses Pete and Ellie.

Karen and Sharon reveal that Lizzy has two siblings, 10-year-old Juan and 6-year-old Lita, and their mother is a drug addict currently in prison. The Wagners’ meeting with Lizzy and her siblings does not result in an immediate "cosmic connection", leading them to reconsider. At Thanksgiving dinner with Ellie's family, Pete and Ellie explain they have decided not to adopt. The family admits that no one really believed they should adopt, which spurs Ellie to go through with fostering the siblings.

Lizzy, Juan, and Lita move in with the Wagners, whose lives become hectic – Lita refuses to eat anything but potato chips, Juan is overly emotional, and Lizzy resents Ellie’s attempts to parent her. The Wagners turn to a support group of their fellow foster parents. Pete's mother Sandy wins the siblings over by taking the family to Six Flags, but Lizzy disappears with friends and returns late, prompting Pete to ground her.

When Pete and Ellie confront Lizzy as she leaves the house, Juan accidentally shoots a nail into his foot. Seeing Pete and Ellie rush Juan to the hospital and comfort Lita, Lizzy begins to warm to them, and Pete invites her to vent her frustrations by demolishing a house he is renovating. Lita calls Pete "daddy" after he fixes her doll, and Juan tells Ellie, "Good night, mommy" when she comforts him after a nightmare.

Pete and Ellie meet Carla, the siblings’ mother, who has been released from prison and wants 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 might return to their biological 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 Lizzy taking naked pictures of herself to send to someone at school named Jacob, who sends her a naked photo of himself. Pete and Ellie seek out the Fernandez family, whose adoptive daughter Brenda had inspired them at their orientation; though Brenda is back in rehab, 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, mistaking him for Jacob. Discovering Jacob is actually the school's 22-year-old janitor, they beat him up and he is arrested, as are Pete and Ellie, leaving Juan and Lita in the car. Returning home after posting bail, Pete and Ellie are told by Sandy that they need to reassure Lizzy that they love her.

At the children’s court hearing, the judge reads a statement from Lizzy, detailing Pete and Ellie’s actions in a negative light. He refuses to let Ellie read her own statement, and the children are returned to Carla’s care. Juan and Lita do not want to leave the Wagners, but Lizzy is ready. Karen and Sharon arrive to inform Lizzy that Carla is not coming to get them, having failed to appear that morning, and seems to be using drugs again. Heartbroken, Lizzy runs away, but Pete and Ellie chase after her and tell her they love her, and the trio reconcile.

Four months later, the family attends a new court hearing, where the judge finalizes Pete and Ellie's adoption of Lizzy, Juan, and Lita. They all pose for a picture, joined by their families and fellow foster families.


  • Mark Wahlberg as Peter "Pete" Wagner
  • Rose Byrne as Elinore "Ellie" Wagner
  • Isabela Moner as Elizabeth "Lizzy" Wagner
  • Gustavo Escobar (Gustavo Quiroz) as Juan Wagner
  • Julianna Gamiz as Lita Wagner
  • Octavia Spencer as Karen, one of the social workers, who guide the parents-to-be through the foster care process
  • Tig Notaro as Sharon, the other social worker, who guide the parents-to-be through the foster care process
  • Margo Martindale as Sandy Wagner, Pete's overbearing and goodhearted mother
  • Julie Hagerty as Jan, Ellie's mother
  • Allyn Rachel as Kim, Ellie's sister
  • Tom Segura as Russ, Kim's husband
  • Michael O'Keefe as Jerry, Ellie's father
  • Brittney Rentschler as Linda, Ellie's sister
  • Jody Thompson as Jim, Linda's husband
  • Iliza Shlesinger as October, a single woman member of the foster parents support group that wants to adopt an athlete
  • Gary Weeks and Joy Jacobson as Dirk and Dana, a religious couple that are members of the support group
  • Hampton Fluker and Randy Havens as Kit and Michael, a gay couple who are members of the support group
  • Kenneth Israel and Andrea Anders as David and Jessie, a couple who are members of the support group
  • Joan Cusack as Mrs. Howard, the Wagners' lonely neighbor
  • Valente Rodriguez as Judge Martin T. Rivas, the Adoption Court Judge
  • Joselin Reyes as Carla Viara, Lizzy, Juan and Lita's drug-using biological mother
  • Carson Holmes as Charlie, a child at Lizzie's school.
  • Nicholas Logan as Jacob, the school janitor who has an inappropriate relationship with an underage Lizzy
  • Eve Harlow as Brenda Fernandez, a young girl with various addictions
  • Rosemary Dominguez as Mrs. Fernandez, Brenda's adoptive mother
  • Javier Ronceros as Mr. Fernandez, Brenda's adoptive father
  • Charlie McDermott as Stewart, Pete's co-worker
  • Erika Bierman as Kylie, one of Lizzy's friends
  • Layla Felder as Savannah, one of Lizzy's friends


Rose Byrne joined the cast of the film on November 17, 2017.[4] Isabela Moner 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.[5][6]


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.[7] 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.[8] Instant Family became available on Digital on February 19, 2019, and on DVD/Blu-Ray on March 5, 2019.[9]

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.[10] 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."[11] In its second weekend, the film dropped 14% to $12.5 million (including $17.4 million over the five-day Thanksgiving frame), finishing sixth.[12]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 82% based on 142 reviews and an average rating of 6.56/10. 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."[13] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 57 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[14] 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."[11]


  1. ^ a b c d Frosch, Jon (November 14, 2018). "'Instant Family': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "Instant Family (2018)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 31, 2019.
  3. ^ Fujitani, Ryan (November 21, 2018). "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Could Use a Bit More Magic". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
  4. ^ N'Duka, Amanda; N'Duka, Amanda (17 November 2017). "Rose Byrne Joins Mark Wahlberg In 'Instant Family' From Paramount".
  5. ^ "Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro Join Mark Wahlberg Comedy 'Instant Family' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter.
  6. ^ "Now Casting: Play a Couple in 'Instant Family' With Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne + 3 More Gigs". 1 March 2018.
  7. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (August 13, 2018). "Paramount Moves Mark Wahlberg Pic 'Instant Family' To Pre-Thanksgiving Frame". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  8. ^ Hayden, Erik (November 10, 2018). "Paramount Cancels 'Instant Family' Red Carpet in L.A. Amid Fires". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 10, 2018.
  9. ^ "Instant Family DVD Release Date March 5, 2019". DVDs Release Dates. Retrieved 2019-01-25.
  10. ^ Rubin, Rebecca (November 13, 2018). "Box Office: 'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald' Sequel Heads for $250 Million Global Launch". Variety. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  11. ^ a b D'Alessandro, Anthony (November 16, 2018). "'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald' Steals $9.1M+ In Thursday Night Previews – Update". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  12. ^ 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. Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  13. ^ "Instant Family (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved March 23, 2019.
  14. ^ "Instant Family reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved March 23, 2019.

External links[edit]