“People Who Take In Foster Kids Are Really Special. The Kind Of People Who Volunteer When It’s Not Even A Holiday…”
When it comes to the chiseled figure of Marky Mark Wahlberg within a cinematic capacity, the American seems to have made peace with a strange trajectory which sees him on the one hand perform brilliantly on a dramatic level, with the likes of The Departed, Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day some of the many standouts from his more serious body of work, and then choose to completely sink himself into the world of American comedies, which for the majority of the time, absolutely suck. Reuniting with Daddy’s Home director, Sean Anders, for Instant Family therefore, you can understand my predisposed prejudice at a movie which judging by the rather soppy and cringe-laden trailers, would be yet another painstakingly awful addition to Mr. Wahlberg’s bipolar back catalogue. However, much like seeing England win at a major tournament or finding a twenty pound note floating upon the pavement, miracles do indeed happen, and whilst I ventured into Instant Family with a frightful expression and a warm cup of coffee in order to keep myself awake, the latest collaboration between Wahlberg and Anders is surprisingly a well made, touching, and most importantly, a genuinely hilarious family drama, one which balances saccharin sweetness with poignant notions of contemporary societal issues amidst a screenplay which does a pretty good job of getting the tone just right for an idea which had all the tell-tell signs for going drastically wrong.
Beginning by introducing the immediately good natured and optimistic pairing of Wahlberg’s Pete and Rose Byrne’s (Insidious) Ellie, the film sees the married couple attempt to bring youthful joy into their lives through the adoption programme, much to the dissatisfaction of both their close friends and family, and after failing to successfully adhere to their wishes of believing that the younger the child is, the better, they soon agree to care for Isabela Moner’s (Sicario 2: Soldado) fifteen year old Lizzy and her two younger, and rather strenuous, siblings. Cue dinner time disasters, countless lengths of sleep cut short and the ultimate fear of sassy teenage angst, Instant Family does indeed take a slight while to get going as it puts all the pieces in place before the adoption takes place, but once the family unit come together, their home life soon becomes akin to a ketchup covered war zone as Ellie and Pete soon believe such a decision may be slightly out of their inexperienced depth. With the screenplay from Anders and John Morris managing to blend rib-tickling comedic set pieces with elements of humane, emotional drama, the story succeeds in making you care for each and every character as we observe the connections and relationships that are built, and with dedicated performances, particularly from Moner who follows on from her scene-stealing role in Sicario 2: Soldado with an equally impressive portrayal of a complex character, Instant Family is an utter delight which although nearly derails everything thanks to an awfully cheesy final act, gets away with it completely and lets you leave with a good old fashioned grin glanced across your chops.
Overall Score: 7/10
“This Year It’s No More Back And Forth At Christmas. It’s A Together Christmas..!”
With 2015’s Daddy’s Home being one of the few cinematic releases which managed to simply pass me by without me having the chance, time or perhaps the need to catch up and review it, the release of it’s inevitable sequel after the comedy hit became Will Ferrell’s highest grossing live action film to date brings with it a sense of heavy duty dread, particularly when reminiscing the more contemporary Ferrell releases such as The House and Zoolander 2, and whilst it requires quite an extensive amount in the American comedy genre to actually impress me, who would have thought that a Christmas themed sequel to a film which never really was asking for a continuation in the first place was actually somewhat quite good fun? With Mel Gibson and John Lithgow added to the cast as the fathers of Mark Wahlberg’s Dusty and Ferrell’s Brad respectively, Daddy’s Home 2 is a surprisingly sharp and witty sequel which although suffers from a overly formulaic plot, some interesting narrative swings and a completely saccharin sweet ending which nearly resulted in me chucking up into the nearest popcorn box, is throwaway comedy trash of the cheesiest order which just happens to be quite enjoyable.
With a script which ironically mirrors the Bad Moms Christmas approach by utilising the added input of an older generation to the plot and therefore the inclusion of much more acting talent, the inclusion of both Gibson and Lithgow does strangely work, with the latter using all his musky, outdated charm and guile to interfere with the family arrangements, and the latter’s penchant for cringe-laden conversations and weirdly intimate family relations managing to balance the widely cliched characterisation of pretty much everyone from child to elder. With rib-tickling set pieces managing to win me over from the start and Wahlberg being undeniably the star of the show, Daddy’s Home 2 does falter in an over-reliance on weak slapstick more times than necessary, whilst the inclusion of a strangely ill-judged gun scene is somewhat muddled in its’ execution, particularly when contemplating recent events in the US. Daddy’s Home 2 isn’t perfect, but nobody heading in was expecting It’s A Wonderful Life, and whilst some may feel the need to slate it’s cocksure and rather unsteady cinematic existence, it really isn’t worth getting angry about, and with that particular mindset in check, Ferrell’s latest is just plain dumb fun.