Instant Family

Theatrical release poster

Directed bySean Anders
Written by
  • Sean Anders
  • John Morris
Produced by
CinematographyBrett Pawlak
Edited byHannah Pawlak
Music byMichael Andrews


Leverage Entertainment
Closest to The Hole Productions
Two Grown Men Productions

Distributed byParamount Pictures[1]

Release date

  • November 16, 2018

Running time

118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$48 million[2]
Box office$120.6 million[2]

Instant Family is a 2018 American family comedy-drama film starring Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne as parents who adopt three siblings, played by Isabela Merced, 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, and is confronted by 15-year-old Lizzie, who impresses Pete and Ellie.

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, currently in prison. The Wagners’ meeting with Lizzie and her siblings does not result in an immediate cosmic connection, leading them to reconsider. At Thanksgiving dinner with Ellies 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.

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

One 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 Lizzies soccer practice. At night, Ellie walks into Juan and Litas room, hearing Juan having a nightmare. After Ellie comforts him, Juan says, “Good night, Mommy.” Ellie is overjoyed by this.

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 systems main goal is to keep families together, and the children could be returned to their biological mother.

Carlas 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 someone at school named Jacob, who sends her a naked photo of his genitals. Pete and Ellie seek out the Fernandez family, whose adoptive daughter Brenda had inspired them at their orientation. They learn that 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 whos been hanging around Lizzie, Charlie points out Jacob to be the schools 22-year-old janitor. They beat up Jacob 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 childrens court hearing, the judge reads a statement from Lizzie, detailing Pete and Ellies actions in a negative light. He refuses to let Ellie read her own statement, and the children are returned to Carlas care. Juan and Lita do not want to leave the Wagners, but Lizzie is ready. The next day, Karen and Sharon arrive to inform Lizzie and her siblings that Carla is not coming for them, having failed to appear that morning. They also reveal that, after going to her home to see her, it appears that Carla is using drugs again and claimed Lizzie was the one who filled out all of the paperwork. Heartbroken, Lizzie runs away, but Pete and Ellie chase after her. They re-assure her that they love her, and the trio reconcile.

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



The film was inspired by Anders own experiences fostering and then adopting three siblings. The children were 6 years old, 3 years old 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 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.[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 films 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, isnt spectacular, but theres 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 145 reviews and an average rating of 6.56/10. The websites 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. 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. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ NDuka, Amanda (17 November 2017). Rose Byrne Joins Mark Wahlberg In Instant Family From Paramount.
  7. ^ Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro Join Mark Wahlberg Comedy Instant Family (Exclusive). The Hollywood Reporter.
  8. ^ Now Casting: Play a Couple in Instant Family With Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne + 3 More Gigs. 1 March 2018.
  9. ^ DAlessandro, Anthony (August 13, 2018). Paramount Moves Mark Wahlberg Pic Instant Family To Pre-Thanksgiving Frame. Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  10. ^ Hayden, Erik (November 10, 2018). Paramount Cancels Instant Family Red Carpet in L.A. Amid Fires. The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 10, 2018.
  11. ^ Instant Family DVD Release Date March 5, 2019. DVDs Release Dates. 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. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  13. ^ a b DAlessandro, Anthony (November 16, 2018). Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald Steals $9.1M+ In Thursday Night Previews – Update. Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  14. ^ DAlessandro, 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.
  15. ^ Instant Family (2018). Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved March 23, 2019.
  16. ^ Instant Family reviews. Metacritic. Retrieved March 23, 2019.

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