Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of INSTANT FAMILY

Instant Family, rated PG-13
***

Instant Family is a pro-family movie inspired by a true story that has some content issues. The film is directed and co-written by Sean Anders (Daddy’s Home, Daddy’s Home 2), and is based on his families’ story of adopting three children out of the foster care system. John Morris (Daddy’s Home, Daddy’s Home 2) co-wrote the film with Anders. The film features a strong cast.
Pete, played by two-time Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter, The Departed), and his wife Ellie, played by two-time Golden Globe nominee Rose Byrne (Damages), earn a good living by buying and flipping houses.  They don’t have any children, but enjoy their life, which includes playing golf and enjoying Meatball, their Bernese Mountain dog. After a comment by Ellie’s brother in law, Ellie and Pete both look at foster children on a website, and their hearts melt. They decide to look into fostering an older child in hopes of adopting them.
Pete and Ellie work with a pair of social workers, the straight-laced Sharon, played by Emmy nominee Tig Notaro (Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted) and the free spirit Karen, played by Oscar winner Octavia Spencer (The Help). Sharon and Karen teach an eight-week foster care certification course that Pete and Ellie attend. Others in the class are an infertile Christian couple, a homosexual couple, and a single woman who wants to adopt an African American boy who might play in the NFL.
Pete and Ellie end up interested in the feisty 15-year-old Latino, Lizzy, played by Isabela Moner, only to find out that Lizzy has two younger siblings: a sensitive boy named Juan, played by Gustavo Quiroz, and a young temperamental girl named Lita, played by Julianna Gamiz. Lizzy has practically raised her younger siblings since they have a drug-addicted mother, who is now in jail. Eventually, Pete and Ellie decide that they need to foster all three.
At first, during the “honeymoon period”, things go well with the new family, but that doesn’t last long. Pete and Ellie decide that this is going to be much harder than they ever imagined, as they share and hear from others in their foster parent support group.
Three-time Emmy winner Margo Martindale (The Americans, Justified) plays the likeable Grandma Sandy, Pete’s mother.  Julie Hagerty (Airplane films), plays Jan, Ellie’s mother. Two-time Oscar nominee Joan Cusack (In & Out, Working Girl), plays Mrs. Howard, a kind neighbor of Pete and Ellie’s in a small role.
Themes include family, love, adoption, and faith (there are a few prayer scenes in the film), and a Christian couple wanting to foster a child.
Content concerns unfortunately include a significant amount of adult language, including several abuses of God’s and Jesus’ names. The language was not necessary, and the film could have been much more family friendly if it had not been included. There are also some sexual references in the film.
Instant Family is an entertaining film, at times funny and at others touching and very serious.  It is inspired by a true story, is somewhat predictable, and has some content concerns, most notably a significant amount of adult language. The film may encourage some to consider serving as foster parents and possibly adopting, though as the film points out, the objective of the foster care system is the preservation of the family, not adoption.


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MOVIE REVIEW ~ Deepwater Horizon

deepwater-horizonDeepwater Horizon, rated PG-13
***

This film is directed by Peter Berg (Lone Survivor and the upcoming Patriots Day, about the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon, which both also star Mark Walhberg).  It is based on the well-publicized actual events that occurred on April 20, 2010, about 40 miles off of the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico. A special oil rig was built just for this film, located in Chalmette, Louisiana where filming mostly took place. It is considered to be the largest set piece ever constructed.

Mark Wahlberg portrays Chief Electrical Engineer Mike Williams. He’s a loving husband to wife Felicia (Kate Hudson, whose stepfather in real life is Kurt Russell. This was their first time working together), and daughter Sydney (Stella Allen). We see Mike say goodbye to his family for a 21-day tour on the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon. Kurt Russell plays “Mister Jimmy”, the respected General Operational Supervisor.  Once Mike and Mister Jimmy reach the Deepwater Horizon, they encounter British Petroleum (BP) executives, including Donald Vidrine, played by John Malkovich. The drilling operation is already 43 days behind, and thus an important concrete test is not completed. We also see many items on the ship (phone system, etc.) not working properly. Early in the film there is a lot of technical talk related to drilling that most viewers will not be familiar with. But quickly we get the feeling that Vidrine and BP are all about the bottom line, and there is little concern for safety. This will soon have disastrous effects.

We are also introduced to other characters, such as Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), but much of the film focuses on the heroics of Mike Williams as we see him put other people ahead of his own personal safety.

This is an intense disaster film with an estimated budget of $110 million.  The depiction of what goes wrong on the Deepwater Horizon is realistic and terrifying.  There is water, mud, oil and then quickly fire everywhere. Even though the plot is predictable and shown in the previews, this movie kept our interest and is worth seeing for the depiction of teamwork, courage and self-sacrifice.  There is a significant amount of adult language, including the abuse of Jesus’ and God’s names included in this PG-13 film, but it could easily be rated R. The film also includes a scene where the survivors kneel and recite the Lord’s Prayer together.

Most will already know that this disaster resulted in 11 people losing their lives and was the largest oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry and the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history. Over the course of 87 days, about 200 million gallons of crude oil would flow into the Gulf. It’s estimated that British Petroleum’s (BP) cost for the clean-up, environmental and economic damages and penalties has reached $54 billion.   So much for cutting corners on safety due to concerns for the bottom line.

You may also be interested in director Peter Berg’s article The ‘Well from Hell’ – My Fight with BP to Film Deepwater Horizon, on what he went through to make the movie.