Story

When Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) begin to worry they’re too old to start a family, they look into becoming foster parents. Instead of fostering one young child as they’d initially planned, they take home three siblings instead. The siblings are rebellious 15-year-old Lizzie (Isabela Moner), her chronically misbehaving little sister Lita (Julianna Gamiz), and her brother Juan (Gustavo Quiroz), who can’t seem to do anything without hurting himself.

Suddenly, Pete and Ellie are thrown headfirst into parenthood, battling both the children and the system, which seems to be working against them. With the support of their dedicated caseworkers, Karen (Octavia Spencer) and Sharon (Tig Notaro), Pete and Ellie discover that there’s more to parenting than toys and meals, especially when your three children are fighting battles of their own.

Themes

Love; family; family breakdown; abuse; substance abuse; abandoned children

Violence

Instant Family has some violence. For example:

  • Juan is accidentally hit in the face with balls and other objects several times, resulting in several nosebleeds. These scenes are usually played for laughs.
  • Lita brandishes a plastic children’s knife, which is covered in ketchup that looks like blood. This is funny.
  • Juan accidentally puts a nail through his foot with a nail gun. This occurs in slow motion, and the scene shows some blood. This is treated seriously in the movie, and Juan is taken to hospital.
  • Juan steps on broken glass. This is funny.
  • Ellie is slapped in the face by an older woman for speaking poorly of her daughter in rehab.
  • Ellie and Pete beat up a man in his twenties for soliciting and sending nude pictures to 15-year-old Lizzie. They punch him in the face several times and kick him in the crotch. Ellie and Pete are both arrested, but this is a funny scene.

Sexual references

Instant Family has some sexual references. For example:

  • A gay couple jokes about trying to conceive a child together.
  • Ellie and Pete joke that all teenage foster kids do is ‘masturbate’.
  • Lizzie is admonished for taking nude pictures of herself (no nudity is seen).
  • Ellie and Pete see a picture on Lizzie’s phone of the penis of a man in his 20s.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

Instant Family shows some use of substances. For example:

  • Adults drink wine and beer with dinner.
  • Ellie and Pete joke that all that teenage foster children do is ‘use drugs’ and ‘crack pipes’.
  • Ellie drinks a shot of straight spirits (likely vodka).

Nudity and sexual activity

Instant Family has some nudity and sexual activity. For example, a married couple kisses on several occasions. This is sweet and loving rather than sexual.

Product placement

The following products and brands are displayed or used in Instant Family: Aqua Hydrate, Coca Cola, Doritos, Apple MacBook, Apple iPhone, Dell, Adidas, Patagonia, Lego, Barbie, Sharpie markers, Porsche, Ford, and Gladiator camping stoves.

Coarse language

Instant Family has some coarse language.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Instant Family is a heartfelt and funny dramedy that poignantly explores the struggles and successes of fostering and adopting children. All the major performances are strong and funny, and the script is entertaining and moves the story forward at a good pace.

Young children might find the themes and plot of Instant Family lack interest. We recommend parental guidance for children under 13 years because of the movie’s mild violence, coarse language, and occasional sexual and substance abuse references. Children over 13 and adults are likely to enjoy this movie.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include:

  • unconditional love and friendship
  • the right of all children to a loving home, regardless of where children come from
  • perseverance in the face of difficulty and hardship.

Instant Family could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like:

  • racism – for example, Lita calls her dark-skinned doll a ‘little beaner’, which is a racist term for people of Hispanic or Mexican descent
  • cybersafety and sexting
  • sexual relationships between people under and over 18 years. Some children and teenagers might not understand the power imbalance and dangers of these relationships.