Hollywood multi-hyphenate Sean Anders, best known for creating such screwball fare as “Hot Tub Time Machine,” “Sex Drive” and “Dumb and Dumber To,” took quite a departure with his 2018 dramedy “Instant Family” by telling the story of a married couple who on a whim decide to become foster parents. Anders based the heartwarming tale, which he wrote, directed and produced, on his own experiences fostering and adopting three children with his wife, Beth, in 2012.
The film (streaming now on both Hulu and Amazon Prime) stars Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne as successful house-flippers Pete and Ellie Wagner who open up their home to three siblings, teenaged Lizzy (Isabela Merced) and her younger brother and sister, Juan (Gustavo Escobar), and Lita (Julianna Gamiz).
A feel-good story through and through, the movie left me in heaps of happy tears by the time the credits rolled. The fact that it is based on a true story only made it all the more poignant. As Anders told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “The experience on this movie — and look, I know everybody says this about every movie — but I’m serious, ask anybody affiliated with this movie . . . It was charmed. The cast was so cool, the crew was so great. The kids who were in the movie were wonderful to work with; they had great parents. I think everybody knew that the movie had a little bit of a higher purpose involved with it. So I think it really made the whole cast and crew kinda pull together in a way that is unusual.”
While filming took place in the Atlanta, Georgia area, Anders chose to set “Instant Family” in California, as that is where he adopted his three children and where he is, therefore, most familiar with the laws and protocols that go along with the process. Because he also wanted the film to emanate a sort of Anywhere, U.S.A. feel, he decided to base the story in a spot that doesn’t actually exist – a fictional leafy suburb that he named “Terrance” County after his father.