‘Instant Family’: A Heartfelt Movie About Adoption And Swole Dads

Mark Wahlberg, Beefy As Usual

Because this is a review of the movie Instant Family, I’m obligated to give you, the reader, an actual review of the movie. We’ll get to that, but first, some context is needed. We need to talk about Mark Wahlberg’s crucial part in creating Hollywood’s newest archetype: The Beef-Dad.

I take full credit for the term, inspired by my frequent visits to the local Y. I try to stay in shape by running a few days a week and lifting weights. It’s enough to hopefully prevent me from dropping dead from an unexpected heart attack. My teen son and a tween daughter and both accompany me to the Y. My son is an athlete–he plays rugby and football–and I think he admires my dedication.

“You’re in good shape, Dad”, he tells me. “The other dads I see at the Y? They have big arms and all, but I never see them on the treadmill. All they do are bench presses.” We agree that such dads are silly. They’re the dads who can lift heavy things, but get winded walking the dog. They possess Dad-Calves made large not from doing squats but from eating pot roast on a semi-weekly basis. This makes them the real-world Beef-Dads.

INSTANT FAMILY ★★ (2/5 stars)
Directed by: Sean Anders
Written by: Sean Anders, John Morris
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne
Running time: 119 min.


Mark Wahlberg, the star of Instant Family, has become Hollywood’s Beef-Dad archetype. His days of playing actual characters, which he did (well!) in Boogie Nights and The Departed, are behind him. Wahlberg makes about 16 movies a year, and in at least 14 of those he plays unusually muscular–I’m told by my son that the correct term is “swole”–working-class men who have time to raise their kids AND hit the gym to get their pump on. They put in the hours to get the gains, both parental and pectoral.

Daddy’s Home, Daddy’s Home 2, Deepwater Horizon, Transformers: Age of Extinction, and Transformers: They Must Have Paid Anthony Hopkins A Shit-Ton Of Cash Because Jeeeesus all feature Wahlberg as a dedicated dad who DOES even lift, bro. It’s important to note that Wahlberg’s Beef-Dad is always good with tools, often seen building, repairing, or remodeling motorcycles, houses, oil drilling gear, or post-warranty Autobots. The underlying psychology is unmistakable: the Beef-Dad as powerful Creator. Freud and Nietzsche would call him Der Rindfleischvater.

The movie itself? Wahlberg and Rose Byrne are house-flippers (meaning that they buy houses, fix them up and sell them for a profit, which is where the Beef-Dad Skills come into play) who decide that they want to fix up/help some kids by adopting them, which is the Whitest Plot Anvil ever to be dropped upon an audience. Three unruly kids appear. Laughter and Tears ensue as Beef-Dad and his charges become a family. Margo Martindale, Tig Notaro and Octavia Spencer show up as a bonus. It’s mostly what you think it is. Not unfunny, sometimes sappy. But since it’s based on the real-life experiences of director/writer Sean Anders, who adopted three kids, Instant Family has an appealing earnestness. It’s a decent family movie that will probably make money and serve to further ensconce Mark Wahlberg as the John Wayne of Cinematic Beef-Dads. (Sorry, The Rock.)

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Jason Avant

Jason Avant is a writer and editor based in Carlsbad, California. He’s written for and edited a bunch of websites that no longer exist, and occasionally contributes to one that does: Roads and Kingdoms.

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