* * * ½ (Joyce)
* * * (Don)
(Humorous tale of foster families)
Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne play Pete and Ellie, a childless, young, white, middle class couple who attend foster parenting classes run by two savvy, sarcastic social workers (Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro) who provide much of the humor to this funny yet poignant film.
Pete and Ellie attend an Adoption Fair, where they are attracted to Lizzy (Isabela Moner), a teenage girl whom they discover has two younger siblings. The children's mother is an addict in prison, unable to be a fit parent. You just know that she will appear at some point later in the film.
The two-hour movie is filled with some very funny moments, as the foster parents learn to cope with three children with a very different upbringing and set of values.
Filled with both physical humor and some funny lines, you laugh at the awkward period of adjustment, while possibly shedding a tear over some very poignant moments.
Pete and Ellie shower the kids with presents on their first Christmas together, only to discover that they are more interested in playing with the cardboard boxes. Lizzy becomes a problem as she struggles with typical teenage angst, while being overprotective of her younger brother and sister.
Scenes of their daily life are interrupted by trips to support group meetings, with a mixed bag of other foster parents venting their stories.
After going through both good and not-so-good moments, the family bonds, the mother returns to claim her children, a court battle ensues and, as expected, adoption enters the picture.
I found the film to be a bit manipulative, which Joyce saw as a positive, as it raised the many challenges families face in fostering and adopting.
Rated PG-13, with some profanity and sexual references. What makes the movie believable is the fact that director Sean Anders is himself an adoptive parent.