Instant Family

image for Instant Family

Short takes

Not recommended under 8 (mild violence, coarse language, lack of interest), Parental guidance under 13. Caution: There is also an M rated version of this film released. This review is only of the PG rated version. Please check when viewing.

classification logo

This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Instant Family
  • a review of Instant Family completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 14 January 2019.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to coarse language, mild violence, and lack of interest.
Children 8 to 13 Ok for this age group. However parental guidance is recommended for viewers under 13 due to mild violence, coarse language, and mature themes.
Children 13 and over Suitable for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Instant Family
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes, coarse language, drug references, and violence.
Length: 118 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

When Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) begin to worry they are too old to start a family, they investigate becoming foster parents.  Instead of fostering a young child as they had initially planned, they end up taking home three! The rebellious 15-year-old Lizzie (Isabela Moner), her chronically misbehaving little sister Lita (Julianna Gamiz), and her brother Juan (Gustavo Quiroz), who can’t seem to do anything without hurting himself.  Suddenly, Pete and Ellie are thrown headfirst into parenthood, battling both the children and the system, which seems to be working against them.  With the support of their dedicated caseworkers, Karen (Octavia Spencer) and Sharon (Tig Notaro), Pete and Ellie discover that there is more to parenting than toys and meals, especially when your three children are fighting battles of their own.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Love; family; family breakdown; abuse; substance abuse; children abandoned.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Juan is accidentally hit in the face with balls and other objects on numerous occasions, resulting in several bleeding noses. These are generally for comedic value.
  • Lita brandishes a plastic children’s knife (while covered in ketchup, imitating blood). This is comedic.
  • Juan accidentally puts a nail through his foot with a nail gun. This occurs in slow motion and some blood is seen. This is treated seriously in the film and he is taken to hospital.
  • Juan steps on broken glass. This is comedic.
  • Ellie is slapped in the face by an older woman for speaking poorly of her daughter in rehab.
  • Ellie and Pete beat up a man in his twenties for soliciting and sending nude pictures to 15-year-old Lizzie. They punch him in the face several times and kicked in the crotch. This is comedic and well-deserved (Ellie and Pete are both arrested).

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

  • Apart from the above-mentioned violent scenes, there is nothing in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • (In flashback) An older man runs to catch a ball but falls down dead from a heart attack. This is comedic and unlikely to distress most children.
  • Young foster children are described as being abandoned and/or abused by their parents.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • A young woman describes (briefly and without detail) being sexually and physically abused as a child, whilst being forced to assist her parents in their meth lab.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Nothing of concern

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Aqua Hydrate
  • Coca Cola
  • Doritos
  • Apple MacBook
  • Apple iPhone
  • Dell computer
  • Adidas jacket
  • Patagonia jacket
  • Lego
  • Barbie
  • Sharpie Markers
  • Porsche car
  • Ford truck
  • Gladiator camping stove

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • A gay couple jokes about attempting to conceive a child together.
  • Ellie and Pete joke that all teenage foster kids do is “masturbate”.
  • Lizzie is admonished for taking nude pictures of herself (no nudity is seen).
  • Ellie and Pete see a ‘dick pic’ on Lizzie’s phone from a man in his twenties.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • A married couple kiss lovingly on several occasions. This is sweet rather than sexual.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Adults are seen drinking wine and beer with dinner.
  • Ellie and Pete joke that all teenage foster kids do is “use drugs” and “crack pipes”.
  • Ellie drinks a shot of straight spirits (likely vodka).

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Fuck
  • Whore
  • Shit (bullshit)
  • Bitch (Nazi bitch)
  • Douche
  • Ass (asshole; jackass; wiseass; bite my ass)
  • Friggin’
  • Piss me off
  • God Damn

In a nutshell

Instant Family is a heartfelt and funny dramedy that poignantly explores the struggles and successes of fostering and adopting children. All the major performances are strong and funny, and the script is  entertaining and moves the story forward at a good pace.  Young children may find this film lacks interest given the themes and plot, and parental guidance is recommended for those under 13 due to the mild violence, coarse language, and occasional sexual and substance abuse references.  Children over 13 and adults are most likely to enjoy this film.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Unconditional love and friendship.
  • All children deserve to be treated well and loved, regardless of where they come from.
  • Persevering through difficulty and hardship.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Racism. For example, Lita calls her dark-skinned doll a “little beaner” (a racist term for people of Hispanic or Mexican descent).
  • Cyber-safety, in particularly engaging in lewd behaviour online or over text message; sending and soliciting/receiving nude pictures.
  • Sexual involvement between a person under 18 and a person over 18. Some children and teenagers may not understand the power imbalance and dangers of these relationships.