Roush Review: A Family’s Harrowing Journey to ‘The Mosquito Coast’

The Mosquito Coast - Justin Theroux - Melissa George
Apple TV+

The Mosquito Coast

Matt's Rating: rating: 3.0 stars

In more ways than one, the latest version of The Mosquito Coast is a family affair. Loosely based on Paul Theroux’s 1981 novel, the seven-part season stars the author’s nephew Justin Theroux (The Leftovers) as obsessive inventor and societal dissident Allie Fox, who whisks his family into a rabbit hole of peril. It’s a challenging role, previously played by Harrison Ford in a more faithful 1986 Peter Weir film co-starring Helen Mirren and River Phoenix.

Allie and wife Margot (the sultry Melissa George) will never win parents-of-the-year awards as they drag their teenage kids, Dina (Logan Polish) and Charlie (Gabriel Bateman), on a harrowing and surreal odyssey across the border to Mexico. They’re fleeing the U.S. government for reasons not immediately apparent, a plot point that remains aggravatingly opaque. And while Allie fancies himself a Mr. Fix-It who can solve any problem, his repeated claims that “This is gonna be an adventure” ignore the fact that no one else particularly wants to be on this ride.

Especially the disoriented Dina, who can’t help wondering, “Why is this even happening? … What did you do?” Her impressionable younger brother hasn’t yet grown out of his hero-worship phase regarding his radical zealot father, who regularly rants against America’s disposable consumer culture. But Charlie is forced to grow up quickly, once they realize that federal agents are on their trail, along with other adversaries, including sinister cartel villains and hitmen, whom they attract along the way.

With one harebrained and hair’s-breadth escape after another, Mosquito Coast (created by Luther’s Neil Cross) is a suspenseful but nonsensical caper, threatening never even to arrive at its destination, a fabled Central American haven for off-the-grid rebels. The first season feels like a prologue to the novel’s richer, deeper environmental concerns about American colonialism.

Apple TV+

Still, Theroux is convincing and compelling as this delusional narcissist of an antihero, who’d do anything for his kids—except, it would seem, keep them safe. Their adventures take them to unexpected and memorable places: a desert bombing range that looks like an abandoned town, a villa populated by stuffed safari animals.

This may not be the Mosquito Coast many were expecting, but you can’t say that it lacks bite.

The Mosquito Coast, Series Premiere, Friday, April 30, Apple TV+