Instant Family ★★★

A "white-poster"* dramedy with a non-ironic deployment of Starship's "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" is, on the surface, the enemy of everything I believe in supporting in movies.

What's impressive about INSTANT FAMILY is that, if you can look past the brazenly manipulative filmmaking choices - and I will 1000% understand if you can't - there's a lot on offer, from a deeply known appreciation of the complexities of foster parenting and the political, moral and emotional difficulties to a couple belly laughs (note: the free champagne before may have assisted, but Wahlberg's "rescue kids" dialogue would have hit my comedy sweet spot regardless) to a surprisingly attuned sense of improv-feeling moments that don't detour the plot (see: every Apatow movie ever) to some terrific performances. Rose Byrne is perfect, and while neither Octavia Spencer or Tig Notaro present anything new individually in their performances, their duo act is so captivating I wanted to pause the movie to start an online petition to demand they star in a buddy comedy. (Wahlberg does his manic upbeat yelly but friendly thing, which I like, but you've seen him do this before.) Even movements that seem tediously and brazenly manipulative (the "star pupil", so to speak, coming to the foster parent presentation to show off being a success story) are reconfigured to much greater complexity than one would would expect.

All that said, it's still a white-poster dramedy that's more interested in selling its message than pushing any filmmaking envelopes. But if you can get past the sickly frosting, the cake is surprisingly good. And, reader, I'm hiding this at the end, but yes: I cried.

*I dunno if this is a real term, but it should be, since there are so many feel-good pudding movies that have posters with their smiling protagonists standing in front of a white background, guaranteeing a fundamentally safe viewing experience.