Foster Care: “Instant Family” Movie Review

I loved the Instant Family movie! It reminded me of my family’s fostering process, which has been one of the most emotional and rewarding experiences of our lives. I liked how the movie portrayed the difficulties of fostering in a positive and humorous way. I want all my friends and family to watch Instant Family so they can gain more insight into the foster system while enjoying the comedy and storyline. There’s also a realistic amount of adversity in Instant Family, but none of it was upsetting or at the expense of foster children. The film reserved any mockery for those who might take the responsibility of fostering too lightly. It has great production value and excellent acting performances while still honestly describing the importance of foster care.

I was able to indentify with the director who has firsthand experience as a foster parent. I could relate to the story of the married couple, Pete and Ellie, who were focused on their careers but felt like their lives were somewhat lacking. When they decided to foster Lizzy, and then discovered that Lizzy had two younger siblings, Juan and Lita, they accepted all three kids. It reminded my wife and I of when we realized the importance of accepting siblings during our foster care training with Koinonia. While at first it seemed like the biggest challenge for Pete and Ellie was that Lita only wanted to eat potato chips for all her meals, it soon became apparent that all three children, and especially Lizzy, offered daunting challenges for the comicly-unprepared foster parents, as they bumbled their way through parenting and grew emotionally closer to the three children. My family is structured differently, however, my feelings about the process of foster care are similar to those expressed by the parents in the movie.

It was amazing to see how Instant Family achieved balance between being an emotional movie and humorous at the same time. It conveyed the significance and seriousness of foster care while also weaving-in some edgy jokes throughout the movie. I was amused by the recurring character in Pete and Ellie’s foster parent support group who wanted to adopt an athletic child so she could fulfill her personal goals for success. I also loved the hillarious comedic-chemistry between Pete and Ellie and the complimentary jokes between Karen and Sharon (two ladies working for the foster care agency) who tried to be honest about the difficulties of fostering kids.

There are plenty of movies aimed at assisting social-justice causes with a good message alone, and Instant Family would have succeeded in being one of those films, but what’s so admirable about Instant Family is how it conveyed its message while also being a comedy that’s appropriate for almost any audience. The film and its message are being exposed to as many people as possible by being in the format of a family comedy. It’s also a movie that seemed self-aware and funny as it addressed topics that might otherwise be criticized; like when Pete raised the question of him and Ellie acting like white saviors “like in Avatar” and Sharon responded, “Okay, so we’ll just put you down for ‘white kids only’” and Pete and Ellie quickly stopped her and said that they’re happy to foster Latino children. I had similar doubts when thinking about how mixed-race families are sometimes perceived in our society.

Some people might think that Instant Family was a little too nice or that it doesn’t go far enough in depicting the hard realities of the foster care system, and those are fair criticisms. When tackling social issues, it’s almost always possible to do better. But those criticisms would miss how much the film has done, and how compelling it is for viewers who don’t mind watching a lighthearted family comedy, but also could be hesitant to watch a documentary or an independant film about the challenges of foster care. By presenting the realities of foster care within the comfort of the family-comedy genre, Instant Family managed to bring exposure to an important issue that some viewers may have never considered.