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Non-Review Review: Instant Family

The biggest issue with Instant Family is one of identity.

Is Instant Family best approached as a broad feel-good comedy that deals too glibly with serious and deeply affecting issues, or is it an earnest drama that too eagerly punctuates its heart-tugging beats with gags that play loudly the gallery? Instant Family never quite seems to work this out, bouncing quickly from one extreme to another without any sense of internal cohesion. Instant Family often seems unsure of the tone that it wants to hit, which means that it can never maintain a consistent tone for more than a scene or so.

Kids also make great human shields.

To be fair to Instant Family, it is possible to deftly balance the demands of comedy and drama. There are countless great films that balance on a knife-edge between the two extremes, most notably the work of directors like Woody Allen or the Coen Brothers. While there is obviously some debate about how skillfully they pull off this balance, it is also a key ingredient in contemporary Oscar contenders like Vice or Green Book. It is entirely possible for a film to make the audience both laugh out loud and cry softly at the same time. Pixar is very good at this.

The issue with Instant Family is one of speed and extremes, how much ground it tries to cover in navigating the space between funny and moving, and how quickly it tries to cross that space.

Family matters.

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Non-Review Review: Falling Down

Falling Down is something of a cult classic. It, along with Phone Booth, stands as proof that Joel Schumacher is actually a rather wonderful director, as much as his failures might occasional overshadow his accomplishments. Filmed in the midst of the Los Angeles riots, Falling Down manages to speak to a lot of the anger of urban living, as William “D-Fens” Foster takes out his frustration on an urban environment that has gone completely mad. Almost twenty years after it was originally released, Falling Down is still a potent little film.

The best D-FENS…

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