In Instant Family, Pete and Ellie's decision to start a family sends them stumbling headlong into the world of foster care adoption. They initially plan on taking in one child, but when they meet Lizzy, a rebellious 15-year-old, and her two siblings, one child suddenly becomes three.
For co-writer and director Sean Anders, the story is inspired by his own experiences.
"About seven years ago my wife and I adopted three kids out of the foster care system. This movie is inspired by that experience and also by the experiences of families that I've met along the way," said Anders. "It's a bizarre experience when you have these three strangers come into your house and you're suddenly supposed to act like their parents. It can be a very awkward, chaotic situation. But a lot of things that happened are just weirdly funny."
The film features an all-star cast, led by Mark Wahlberg as Pete. Anders and Wahlberg previously worked together on Daddy's Home and Daddy's Home 2. Once he heard the premise for Inside Family, Wahlberg signed on immediately.
"That was one of the most amazing experiences of my career. I stayed up real late one night writing Mark this email just trying to express to him how passionate about this movie. He called me back right away the next morning, first thing and he said 'you know how early I get up right?' and I said 'I do. I do know how early' and he said, 'I've been waiting for an appropriate time to call you back and just say I'm in'. [Mark] had met kids in care throughout the years and it was something that was important to him to do. He just jumped right in and then we had a movie," explained Anders.
Rose Byrne plays Wahlberg's wife Ellie, while Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro steal scenes as a pair of social workers guiding parents through the foster care process. But, the kids are the heartbeat of the film, led by rising star Isabela Moner as Lizzy.
"She's so fantastic that really the key with her was letting her know where her head was at during any given scene," said Anders. "[Moner] really can do it all. She even sings a song she co-wrote during the end credits. That's how talented this kid is."
Instant Family is equal parts humorous and heartfelt. Even the film's most hilarious moments are purposeful, helping to address emotions both the characters and audience may have.
"People are trying to do the right thing and maybe saying the wrong thing or [messing] up in some way. So, throughout the process we were just trying to ride this line of making sure we were paying the proper respect and reverence to these important moments that were happening, but always giving people a chance to laugh," explained Anders.
The reviews are in and, so far, critics agree, Instant Family is a feel-good hit. But for Anders, ultimately he hopes the film's impact is bigger than the box office.
"When people hear the words 'foster care'...it gives them feelings of fear or trepidation or pity. And I really want people to go on this journey with this family...so when they think of these kids they think of them in a more positive light, the way they deserve to be thought of, because these kids, at the end of the day, are just kids. They need parents, they need love and they have a lot of love to give themselves."