Instant Family: Should You Watch It with Your Family?

There’s a big holiday buzz about the new film Instant Family, starring Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne.

When Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) decide to start a family, they stumble into the world of foster care adoption. They hope to take in one small child but when they meet three siblings, including a rebellious 15 year old girl (Isabela Moner), they find themselves speeding from zero to three kids overnight. Now, Pete and Ellie must hilariously try to learn the ropes of instant parenthood in the hopes of becoming a family. INSTANT FAMILY is inspired by the real events from the life of writer/director Sean Anders.  –

If you actually ARE in an adoptive or foster family, you should know what other adoptive and foster parents and adoption professionals are saying about this film and the messages that our sons and daughters may receive.

The Good

Wow. They got it right. The 15 year-old girl could have been my own 15 year-old; I’ve truly heard the same sentences come out of her mouth and I’ve seen the same expressions on her face. The movie is a comedy AND it is also very serious. I cried nonstop during the last 40 minutes (the ugly cry) and when we left the theater, I was astonished to see my 15-year-old and my husband were also red-eyed and crying. The movie is very authentic and does include bad language, as a heads up — if you have teens adopted from foster care, know that the movie can be very triggering and also so healing. Good representation of adoptive families can be hard to find in pop culture.— Portrait of an Adoption

The message of Instant Family is that foster care adoption is a path that even regular (not “special”) people can take to build a family. The portrayals of the bumbling mistakes and “what were we thinking” moments of those regular people are relatable to all of us who’ve adopted. – Creating A Family

The Bad

When we endorse films like this, and laugh in jest at these ignorant narratives that are perpetually displayed, we send the message that blacks, and other minorities are reduced to what they do and not who they are. We maintain ideals of racial superiority. We do not regard them as people made in the image of God. We do not exemplify His character by considering black and brown babies who have suffered some of life’s most difficult woes worthy to care for unless there is a return on our“investment.” We will continue to remain divided as a Church when we tolerate and find as entertainment narratives that emasculate black men, portray black women as not marriage worthy, and reduce black children to prospects. – Morgan-Raquel Davis on Medium

The Maybe

As a long-time foster-adoption social worker, I love Instant Family. I don’t recommend it for kids; I think there’s a lot of material that could be triggering for children touched by adoption because it’s so real – but for adoptive parents or people considering adoption, this is a perfect opportunity to explore many of the real-life aspects of foster care adoption. It’s funny and entertaining, and has the potential to help prospective adoptive parents be more thoughtful and better-prepared. Because of this, it can have a positive impact on kids waiting to be adopted. Instant Family has Adoption at the Movies’ strong recommendation. – Adoption At The Movies

I will be honest though — I won’t be bringing my two adopted daughters with me to see it in the theater. Instead,I’ll wait until it’s available for home-viewing to share it with them. I believe that for them and for our family, they will need time to stop and start the movie and to process it together in the safety of our living room. – Creating A Family

The film was created with input from adoptees, foster care alumni, foster parents and biological parents, and is on point in how it portrays these issues that play out in our lives. But it has aspects that are trauma triggers for anyone who has been a child in the system.Especially when the biological mom seems to choose her addiction over reunification with her kids. It shows an adoption fair — we know how necessary yet uncomfortable those are. It also talks about “court bears,” trash bags and heart galleries. It will impact kids of all ages — not in a good way.The film WILL inspire people to become foster parents and kids WILL have families as a result. But the subject matter, as funny as it is, was not created for kids/teens with a trauma history to view. – Colorado State Foster Parent Association

Bottom line? Know before you show. Since you know your children better than anyone, consider seeing this film first without them so you can make a well-informed decision about how it will most likely affect them.

Have you seen Instant Family? What is your recommendation?

Lori Holden, mom to a teen daughter and a teen son, is an award-winning blogger who writes from Denver at Lori was nominated by Senator Michael Bennet as a 2018 Angel in Adoption®. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is on suggested and required reading lists at adoption agencies around the country. It makes a thoughtful gift for the adoptive families in your life.