Runtime 115 minutes
I have to be honest; I was not looking forward to this movie. It sounded saccharine and dull. How wrong that was!
Written (with John Morris) and directed by Sean Anders, Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) make up a childless couple who choose to go the adoption route, becoming foster parents to three siblings, consisting of a 15-year old girl (Isabela Moner, who is a pop singer in real life and concludes the movie singing a song over the closing credits) and her two younger siblings, Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and Lita (Julianna Gamiz). The problems they encounter are serious but generally played for the comedy involved.
The movie is an autobiographical journey by Anders, who describes a conversation with his wife almost identical to the one Pete and Ellie have that sets the entire film in motion. In a director’s statement, Anders says, “For the first couple of drafts I was picturing my family. But as we started to incorporate more stories from other families and the social workers, we started to make it more of an amalgamation of different people’s experiences. The characters became more inspired by my family, rather than being copies of my family.”
The other stories are alluded to through the use of a support group Pete and Ellie join, first to consider taking in foster children, and then to support each other after they have done so. Once again although some of the issues are serious, they are almost always played for the comedic effect.
One of the things that discouraged me going in was the almost 2 hour length, but this movie is so well written and acted that the time passed in a flash. Wahlberg and Byrne are at the top of their games, using their comedic licks without going over the line into slapstick or parody. Both should qualify for Oscar nominations but nominations for comedy are as rare as hen’s teeth.
The politically correct casting of the support group Pete and Ellie join was too in-your-face not to be annoying, but it’s not enough to ruin the movie.
It was a treat to see Julie Hagerty, who plays Elle’s mother Jan, again. Although she’s been working a lot, I haven’t seen much of her since she captivated me by her performance in Lost in America (1985), writer/director/star Albert Brooks’ brilliant comedy that is one of my favorites.
I would also give a nomination to Anders and Morris for a dazzling script.
Tony Medley is an MPAA-accredited film critic. See more reviews at TonyMedley.com.