A Terrible Mark Wahlberg Movie Is Crushing On Netflix

By Nathan Kamal | 2 months ago

mark wahlberg

It may be unfair to say that there are a lot of terrible Mark Wahlberg movies out there, but it is not inaccurate. And to be actually fair, there are a lot of excellent Mark Wahlberg movies out there (the best of which he deeply regrets having made) in which he shows great depth of feeling, talent, and nuance. But really, at the end of the day, it seems the quintessentially  Bostonian actor knows what kind of movies he likes, and he likes to star in those. For example, he likes Mel Gibson and he likes being in movies with him (no matter what other trouble Gibson might be in). They are both going to be heavily bearded in a movie celebrating their mutual faith this year, in fact. He likes action movies by Friday Night Lights director Peter Berg, so he is in a bunch of those. And it seems Mark Wahlberg likes being in family films in which he can use his tough but theoretically lovable image to maximum tearjerking effect. One of those movies is called Instant Family, and it is currently blowing up on Netflix USA. 

mark wahlberg

Instant Family is currently ranking in the top ten movies streamed in literally dozens of countries worldwide, so let it not be said that Mark Wahlberg’s appeal is not universal. And while we may be describing it as “terrible” (for reasons we’ll get into), that is not everybody’s opinion. It currently holds an 81% at Rotten Tomatoes, which normally gets things pretty right. On paper, the 2018 film has a lot going for it. Obviously, there is Wahlberg, in suburban dad mode (if you don’t believe us, watch and count how many baseball caps he wears in the course of the film). There is Rose Byrne, riding her comedic breakthrough in Kristen Wiig’s Bridesmaids in 2011. There is an enormously talented supporting cast that includes character actress Margo Martindale, Academy Award-winner Octavia Spencer, and one of the most brilliant standup comics in the world, Tig Notaro. And it was directed by the writer of…Mr. Popper’s Penguins?

mark wahlberg

Okay, that is something of a cheap shot. Sean Anders is a very successful screenwriter and director. He either wrote or directed (or both) highly successful and often well-made comedies like Hot Tub Time Machine, We’re The Millers, and both Daddy’s Home and Daddy’s Home 2. The lattermost films are most likely how he entered Mark Wahlberg’s orbit, and when Wahlberg likes a filmmaker, he tends to stick with him for at least a few movies (see: Peter Berg, David O. Russell, definitely not Paul Thomas Anderson). Anders has the Apple TV film Spirited coming out this year, which apparently is a riff on Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol that involves musical comedy, Will Ferrell, and Ryan Reynolds. At least Anders cannot be faulted for the bravery to always go high concept. 

But the movie at hand currently being watched on literally thousands of screens globally is Instant Family. The family comedy was actually based on Sean Anders’ own experiences. He and his wife fostered three children, who they eventually adopted. In the fictionalized version of events, childless couple Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne reluctantly look into fostering, prompted by the guilty pressure of their relatives (the best reason to do anything). Aided by Tig Notaro and Elizabeth Spencer’s social worker characters, they ended up at a fostering fair and are impressed by the chutzpah of Lizzy (Isabela Merced) and end up with her. Twist: Lizzy has two siblings and in order to have her, they have to take all three. Cue some more passive aggression by relatives, and the adoption process is one. 

It is difficult to overtly criticize a film inspired by the director’s true-life experiences, but then again, this is a movie that has a trailer in which Mark Wahlberg comedically hits a child in the head with a ball on two separate instances. It also has a scene in which Wahlberg and Rose Byrne mercilessly berate a red-headed child for bullying their children, which recalls the much better scene in This is 40 where Leslie Mann does essentially the same thing with a very blonde child. At the very least, this is a movie that tugs at heartstrings and makes you believe that Mark Wahlberg can be a good father. And that’s something.