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Instant Family

        Home Index Years        







Sean Anders



Husband and wife Pete and Ellie Wagner, derided by relatives who think they will never have children, consider adoption. They enrol in foster care, led by social workers Karen and Sharon. At a fair to meet foster children, Ellie voices her reluctance to foster/adopt a teen, when they are confronted by 15-year-old Lizzie, who impresses them.

Karen and Sharon reveal that Lizzie has two siblings, 11-year-old Juan and 6-year-old Lita, and their mother is a drug addicted, in jail; if they want to adopt Lizzie, they must take Juan and Lita too. The Wagners' meeting with Lizzie and her siblings does not result in an immediate connection, making them reconsider. At Thanksgiving dinner with Ellie's family, Pete and Ellie say they have decided not to adopt. The family admits no one actually believed it would work out, so Pete and Ellie decide to officially adopt them.

Lizzie, Juan, and Lita move in with the Wagners, whose lives become hectic – Lita will only eat potato chips and throws tantrums, Juan is extremely emotional and fragile, and Lizzie resents Ellie's attempts to parent them. The Wagners turn to a foster parent support group.

Pete's mother Sandy wins the kids over by taking the family to Six Flags, but Lizzie disappears with friends and returns late, prompting Pete to ground her.

The next day, as Pete and Ellie confront Lizzie trying to leave with friends, Juan accidentally shoots a nail into his foot with a nail gun. Seeing Pete and Ellie rush a hysterical Juan to the hospital and comfort both Juan and Lita, Lizzie begins to warm up to them, taking the blame in front of the social worker Karen.

After a fight between Lizzie and Ellie that originated from suppressed emotions on Lizzie's part, Pete invites her to vent her frustrations by demolishing the kitchen of the house he is renovating, resulting in Lizzie apologizing and both women making peace.

Lita calls Pete "Daddy" after he fixes her doll during Lizzie's soccer practice. At night, Ellie walks into Juan and Lita's room, hearing Juan having a nightmare and crying in his sleep. After Ellie comforts him, Juan says, "Good night, Mommy." Ellie is overjoyed.

Pete and Ellie meet Carla, the kids' mother who is out of prison, wanting to reunite with her children. Carla's meetings with her children disrupt the Wagner household; the children become more unruly, leaving Pete and Ellie demotivated and frustrated. The Wagners express their feelings to the support group, but the social workers slip up and tell them about the reunification process in front of everybody instead of in private. They explain the system's major goal is to keep families together, and the children may be returned to their birth mother.

When arriving home, Pete and Ellie are horrified to discover Lizzie exchanging naked pictures of herself with Jacob, her boyfriend at school. Pete and Ellie seek out the Fernandez family, whose adoptive daughter Brenda had inspired them at their orientation. They learn Brenda is back in rehab, but Mr. and Mrs. Fernandez assure the Wagners that "things that matter are hard".

Taking the children to school the next day, Pete and Ellie confront a student named Charlie, mistakenly thinking he is Jacob, only to apologize for the mix-up when he tells them the truth; when Pete asks Charlie if he knows anyone named Jacob who's been hanging around Lizzie, Charlie points out Jacob is the school's 22-year-old janitor. They beat him up and he is arrested, as are Pete and Ellie, accidentally leaving Juan and Lita in the car unattended. Returning home after posting bail, Pete and Ellie are told by Sandy that they need to reassure Lizzie that they love her.

At the children's court hearing, the judge reads a statement from Lizzie, detailing Pete and Ellie's actions negatively and leaving out key details. He refuses to let Ellie read her own statement, and the children are returned to Carla. Juan and Lita do not want to leave the Wagners, but Lizzie is eager to. The next day, however, Karen and Sharon arrive and say that Carla never met them to pick up the kids, and they went to go find her. Carla told them she's not ready to take her kids back; it's revealed that Lizzie filled out the paperwork to reunite the family. Lizzie still believes they can go back, until Karen and Sharon reveal that Carla is using drugs again. Heartbroken and devastated by the news, Lizzie tearfully runs away as Pete and Ellie chase after her. They re-assure her that they love her, and the trio reconcile.

Four months later, the family is seen leaving the house to attend the court hearing that finalizes the adoption of Lizzie, Juan, and Lita. Whilst heading out, Lizzie shouts, "Mom, have you seen my phone?" referring to Ellie and later "Papá referring to Pete, suggesting that she had finally accepted Pete and Ellie as her parents. The family pose for a picture, joined by the judge, members of their extended family, and fellow foster families.








Updated - 19/05/2024