'Instant Family' Will Pull Your Heartstrings in a Good Way

What started as an older man’s joke about wanting to adopt a five-year-old instead of starting from scratch, Instant Family was inspired by writer and director Sean Anders’ real-life family. Pete (Mark Wahlberg) “accidentally” makes the joke to his wife Ellie (Rose Byrne) not wanting to be become that “old dad” everyone knows and before you know it, the two are traveling down to road toward foster care adoptions. After numerous classes taught by two caseworkers (Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro), the two meet three kids at a “foster fair” gathering. Lizzy (Isabela Moner) is the 15-year-old older sister who has protectively looked after her younger siblings Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and Lita (Julianna Gamiz) while their mother has been incarcerated. She’s a tough cookie with trust issues. Juan is both accident prone and highly sensitive and Lita is super sweet as long as she gets to eat potato chips at every meal. Almost overnight they become an “instant family” and everything g…

Lindsay Pulsipher Does an Amazing Job in 'God Bless the Broken Road'

Review of "God Bless the Broken Road."
Robin Givens, Lindsay Pulsipher and Jordin Sparks in God Bless the Broken Road (10 West Studios)
During the first few minutes of God Bless the Broken Road, the story of Amber Hill’s life seems like the idealist Christian life. Even though her husband is in Afghanistan serving in the military, he’ll be home soon. She knows just what to say to her daughter when she misses her daddy and shares a happy Christian saying. She leads the choir at church and loves it. She’s living the victorious Christian life that so many of us struggle to find or keep. It’s all a bit much and you wonder if the rest of the movie is going to be this sappy. And then it all comes crashing down and the movie becomes a little more believable.

Amber (Lindsay Pulsipher) receives the worst kind of news that her husband Darren (Liam Matthews) has died. She no longer goes to church. This is partially due to the fact that she has to work full time in order to pay the bills but also because church no longer brings her joy. Money is tight. Her daughter Bree (Makenzie Moss) has be wait for hours for her to finish her waitress job before they can go home. Her mother-in-law Patti (Kim Delaney) means well, but is super sharp around the edges making a tough situation even harder. Her friends, Karena, Hannah and Bridgette (Robin Givens, Madeline Carroll and Jordin Sparks) miss her and do what they can for her, but it’s not enough. Enter Cody Jackson.

Now, if this were a Hallmark Channel movie, Cody would probably be the answer to all of Amber’s problems by becoming Amber’s new love interest and by golly, he does try. Cody (Andrew W. Walker) is a race car driver sent to the small town to work with Gary Grubbs (Joe Cartier) a trainer for race car drivers. He tells Cody that Amber is out of his league but Cody is smitten upon his first arrival. There is some cutesy talk, some not-so-funny comedic moments and the film feels a bit colored by the numbers. Then the film changes again. Instead of things getting better for Amber and Bree, they get worse. Some of the Christian platitudes that are spoken throughout the film begin to sound hollow. Some of the film’s predictability become less, well, predictable. In short, God Bless the Broken Road is a lot like our own lives – not perfect, but actually pretty good.

Review of "God Bless the Broken Road."
Andrew W. Walker and Lindsay Pulsipher (10 West Studios)
Writer and director Harold Cronk does something brave with this faith-based movie. He dares to show Christians not being their best and doesn’t tie everything up neat and tidy in big red bow. Yes, you can count on a happy ending as this is a movie that is ultimately about hope, but he isn’t afraid to show the struggle too. Amber isn’t the perfect Christian and although good-looking, Cody’s smile isn’t enough to make everything better.

The more you watch God Bless the Broken Road, the better it gets. Pulsipher is in almost every scene in this film, so a lot of its weight rests on her shoulders and she does a great job (and sings!) especially when teamed up with Delaney. These are two women fighting for what’s best for Bree so it’s sort of like mother bear and the mother bear’s mother-in-law. It’s not pretty. For her part, Moss is almost too cute for the screen. The film also shares some screen time for former football player, LaDainian Tomlinson playing an amazingly believable pastor role and singer Michah Tyler performing in a small coffee shop. Unfortunately, Givens, Carroll and Sparks aren’t given much to do but they do round out the cast nicely. Finally, a shout out needs to go to cinematographer, Philip Roy who managed to create some truly unique shots visually. Some scenes are really beautifully done from the scene when Amber learns the fate of her husband (see above) to when she arguing with God in front of the church and the building looks twice as big as it really is.

Perhaps the films strongest point is its portrayal of the local church. It’s not huge or fancy but it is a congregation that cares for each other. Many will accuse God Bless the Broken Road as being a film that preaches to the choir, but honestly, sometimes the choir needs to be preached to and even so, the messages of pain and hope are universal themes that we all face.

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