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.
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.