Instant Family (Alterverse)
Instant Family is a 2018 American family comedy-drama 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, Iliza Shlesinger, Octavia Spencer, and the film is directed by Sean Anders, who wrote the screenplay with John Morris, based in part on Anders' own experiences.
Instant Family was subject to controversy prior to its release, mainly due to being blamed for adoption rates dramatically dropping, and was panned by critics for its unfunny humor and poor perfomances. It is notable for only grossing $1.3 million out of its $48 million, making it a huge box office flop.
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 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 extremely emotional, and Lizzy resents Ellie's attempts to parent them. The Wagners turn to the 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.
One day, as Pete and Ellie confront Lizzy 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, Lizzy 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. 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 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 system's main goal is to keep families together, and the children could be returned 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 his privates. 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 who's been hanging around Lizzy, Charlie points out Jacob to be the school's 22-year-old janitor. They beat up Jacob and he is arrested, as are Pete and Ellie, 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 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. The next day, Karen and Sharon arrive to inform Lizzy that Carla is not coming to get 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 Lizzy was the one who filled out all of the paperwork. Heartbroken, Lizzy 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 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, 15-years old and the oldest sibling.
- Tig Notaro as Sharon, one of the social workers who guide the parents-to-be through the foster care process
- Octavia Spencer as Karen, the other social worker who guides 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 soft spoken and naive mother
- Michael O'Keefe as Jerry, Ellie's father
- Tom Segura as Russ, Kim's husband
- Gustavo Escobar as Juan Wagner, 10-years old and the middle sibling.
- Julianna Gamiz as Lita Wagner, 6-years old and the youngest sibling.
- Allyn Rachel as Kim, Ellie's sister
- Charlie McDermott as Stewart, Pete's co-worker
- Valente Rodriguez as Judge Martin T. Rivas, the Adoption Court Judge
- Carson Holmes as Charlie
- Nicholas Logan as Jacob
- Joselin Reyes as Carla
- Eve Harlow as Brenda
- Iliza Shlesinger as October
- Andrea Anders as Jessie
- Gary Weeks as Dirk
- Joan Cusack as Mrs. Howard
Rose Byrne joined the cast of the film on November 17, 2017. 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.
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. 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, but was cancelled due to negative reactions due to the trailer's already poor reception. Instant Family became available on Digital on February 19, 2019, and on DVD/Blu-Ray on March 5, 2019.
Due to the poor portrayal of the foster children according to test screening critics, over 500 theaters in the US banned airings of Instant Family as well as other countries such as the United Kingdom and Japan banning the film from showing in theaters.
Instant Family was released alongside Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and Widows, and only grossed $200 on its opening weekend. The reason stated was that foster parents were organizing protests around theaters to prevent people from seeing the movie due to its inaccuarcy, and somehow succeeded. On its second weekend, it managed to gross a little more than the first, but failed to meet its expectations, and was labelled as a box office bomb. It was pulled from theaters after 2 weeks of screening.
When the film's trailer was dropped, it was heavily panned by Internet viewers, foster parents, and critics alike, who criticized it for its poor humor, generic plot, and the choice to cast Mark Walhberg as the father. Many were angered by not bothering to even persuade people to adopt a child but rather acting like a typical comedy movie. The YouTube trailer reached a like-to-dislike ratio within 2 million dislikes over 1 thousand likes, making it one of the most disliked videos of all time, and the lowest rated trailer as of Feburary 5, 2021.
The film gained more controversy after release when it was blamed by adoption centers for adoption rates decreasing, with foster parents persuading others not to see the film. On January 4, 2019, Paramount Pictures was sued by AdoptUSKids with said center winning the lawsuit.
Instant Family was hated by critics, audiences, foster parents and children, and moviegoers alike, with many who were part of the film disowning it since. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 4% based on 145 reviews and an average rating of 6.56/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Instant Family does not have a single clue what "adoption" means." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 14 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "overwhelming dislike". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "F" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it an 3% overall positive score and a rare 0% "definite recommend."
Mark Walhberg, in an interview about the film's failure, said that "I am very disappointed on how this turned out. I didn't feel like a father. I'm sorry."
The Fall of the Wagners: An Instant Family Documentary
On May 5, 2019, independent film company A24 annouced a documentary based off of the failure and controversy surrounding Instant Family would be in development and set to release in 2022. On January 1, 2020, the title of the film was revealed The Fall of the Wagners: An Instant Family Documentary, and that the entire cast of the family would be in the film, discussing their thoughts.