Apple TV+ review: 'The Mosquito Coast' a slog that wastes a strong cast

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in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited April 30
Strong performances from Justin Theroux and Melissa George can't save "The Mosquito Coast," that's trying too hard to become Apple's "Breaking Bad."

Justin Theroux, Melissa George, Logan Polish and Gabriel Bateman in
Justin Theroux, Melissa George, Logan Polish and Gabriel Bateman in "The Mosquito Coast," premiering April 30 on Apple TV+.


The Mosquito Coast seems to be Apple TV+'s stab at a tense prestige adventure series, in the tradition of Breaking Bad and Ozark. The show features a family of Americans traveling through the Southwest and eventually to Central America for what start off as mysterious reasons. The tension of the show comes from both the adventures along the way, and the question of what, exactly, is going on.

Holding out for so long would seems to add a level of tension to the proceedings, as if the audience is meant to ask itself whether the protagonist is a hero or antihero, and whether he's a crackpot, or really the sanest one of all.

But, the show doesn't do a particularly great job juggling those different types of tension.

The Mosquito Coast, which debuts the first two of its seven episodes on Apple TV+ April 30, is an adaptation of the 1981 novel by Paul Theroux. The book was previously made into a movie with Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren as the leads, and isn't well-regarded.

In 2021, Justin Theroux -- who happens to be the author's nephew -- steps into the part of Allie Fox, while Melissa George is his wife, Margot. Both Theroux men are among the show's executive producers.

Neil Cross, best known for creating the popular British show Luther, is the showrunner, and he also developed The Mosquito Coast series along with Tom Bissell. Rupert Wyatt, best known for directing the movie "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," directed the first two episodes.

Family ties

Justin Theroux in
Justin Theroux in "The Mosquito Coast," premiering April 30 on Apple TV+.


The Mosquito Coast is the story of Allie, an inventor who is as idealistic as he is intense. He pontificates about the soullessness of consumerism while hawking his invention, a type of contraption that's supposed to make ice out of fire. Having rejected the consumerism of the United States, Allie uproots his family and takes them South of the border.

The family also happens to be on the run from the feds (played by Kimberly Elise and James Le Gros), and indications are they have been running for quite some time, while using various identities. But the show is very deliberate about the way it parcels out information, in a way that's very much to its detriment. On Breaking Bad, we know what's going on, and what the stakes are, right away, but that's not the case here.

"This is the girl"

Justin Theroux in
Justin Theroux in "The Mosquito Coast," premiering April 30 on Apple TV+.


Most of the better things about the show come from the first-rate cast. Justin Theroux is in his first star TV turn since his run in the lead of one of the great TV series of the last decade, The Leftovers. He successfully carries this show, while selling dialogue that's silly at best and smug nonsense at worst.

Melissa George, while not as much of a household name, has been on all sorts of TV shows over the years, and her performance is right there with that of Theroux, as another character with plenty of mystery to her. The project represents a reunion for Theroux and George, who previously both appeared in the 2001 David Lynch movie "Mulholland Drive." Gabriel Bateman and Logan Polish, meanwhile, are more than capable as their two kids.

This type of show often has kids that get in the way of the storytelling, but that's not the case here. Polish, in particular, looks like someone who could absolutely be the daughter of Justin Theroux and Melissa George.

One of the more significant weakness to The Mosquito Coast, is that it moves very, very slowly, and not enough happens in the early going to grab the viewer. It's a very deliberate journey, one that doesn't feature much of the stakes and tension that were associated with the best moments of the shows it's clearly trying to emulate. It can be hard to be invested when we don't know why these people are being chased, and the agents' motivations in chasing them. And the intensity of a scene late in the second episode is somewhat negated by our knowledge that it's the second episode out of seven, and we know the main characters are going to survive.

It's also a bit incongruous for Apple, of all companies, to put out a show about a guy who so thoroughly rejects consumerism, although that also means there's a lot fewer iPhones on screen than in a typical contemporary Apple TV+ show. Allie at one point even tells his daughter she can't have a phone.

Going South

Justin Theroux and Melissa George in
Justin Theroux and Melissa George in "The Mosquito Coast," premiering April 30 on Apple TV+.


Even though it's based on a single book, The Mosquito Coast isn't being advertised as a limited series, although there's been no announcement of Apple picking up a second season, as the company has often done with new shows. ("That's up to Apple," Melissa George said of that question in her recent interview with AppleInsider.) What that says about Apple's confidence in the show is another question entirely.

The show is far from the best or most inventive show of its kind, and the slow pace is certainly a concern. But the fine performances by the strong cast serve to make The Mosquito Coast more worthwhile than it otherwise would have been.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 26
    I saw the original movie back in the 80s and was bored stiff. No, thanks.
    entropyswilliamlondonanantksundaram
  • Reply 2 of 26
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 631member
    So, it’s a slog. But, it’s a worthwhile slog? And strong performances “can’t save” the show, yet Justin Theroux “successfully carries the show”? 

    This review is ALL over the place. 

    I initially had no desire to watch this one, but this review changed my mind. Similar things were said about Ted Lasso after the first few episodes were released, and we all know how that turned out. 
    edited April 30 lollivercypresstreeGraeme000InspiredCodeRayz2016
  • Reply 3 of 26
    What ever happened to experiencing something without preconceptions or bias? I’m halfway through the first episode and enjoying it. Good production quality.
    lolliverwilliamlondoncypresstreeInspiredCodeRayz2016
  • Reply 4 of 26
    entropysentropys Posts: 2,970member
    Another story for California hippy boomers.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 5 of 26
    lolliverlolliver Posts: 427member
    Japhey said:
    So, it’s a slog. But, it’s a worthwhile slog? And strong performances “can’t save” the show, yet Justin Theroux “successfully carries the show”? 

    This review is ALL over the place. 

    I initially had no desire to watch this one, but this review changed my mind. Similar things were said about Ted Lasso after the first few episodes were released, and we all know how that turned out. 
    What ever happened to experiencing something without preconceptions or bias? I’m halfway through the first episode and enjoying it. Good production quality.
    Yep, this review reads very much like their Ted Lasso review. Complaining that the premise of the show is no good based on their  preconceived ideas yet not being able to back that up with anything in the review. 

    I especially found it ridiculous to complain that the intensity of the chase isn’t there because we know the main characters survive. 

    Complaining that Apple shouldn’t release a show like this because the characters are anti technology is also weird. If every show Apple released had to align with Apples corporate values that would really limit their options. 
    edited April 30 InspiredCodeRayz2016
  • Reply 6 of 26
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,311member
    Did the reviewer get access to more than just 2 episodes? My rule of thumb is usually 3.
    williamlondonInspiredCodeRayz2016lolliver
  • Reply 7 of 26
    I saw the original movie back in the 80s and was bored stiff. No, thanks.
    First thread post, negative, how MR, thanks for your nothing review of not watching it. FFS. Perhaps next time, leave it, nothing added to the discussion except nothing.

    Loved the original with Harrison Ford (and I'm not a CA hippy boomer, fucking hell @entropys, don't be an ass). Looking forward to watching it, keeping an open mind and hoping for the best but to be honest doubtful it can live up to the original. Stranger things, however, do happen.
    Graeme000InspiredCodeRayz2016lolliver
  • Reply 8 of 26
    Did the reviewer get access to more than just 2 episodes? My rule of thumb is usually 3.
    Potentially. The entire season is definitely available to some.
  • Reply 9 of 26
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,164administrator
    Did the reviewer get access to more than just 2 episodes? My rule of thumb is usually 3.
    Yes.
  • Reply 10 of 26
    LoneStar88LoneStar88 Posts: 319member
    Looking is much better than thinking. Just watch the damn thing! It’s GOOD!
    InspiredCodewilliamlondonlolliverStrangeDays
  • Reply 11 of 26
    InspiredCodeInspiredCode Posts: 205member
    Two episodes in I think you can only judge if a show is watchable or not. Too early to say if the show is good, but it’s holding my interest so far. The first episode was great. The second episode felt as if nothing notable happened, but I’ll reserve my judgement. The car scene with the militia wasn’t to show suspense over survival. Of course they will survive. They were showing how coordinated Allie and Margot were in a tense situation. That was the best scene in the episode.
    edited April 30 lolliver
  • Reply 12 of 26
    InspiredCodeInspiredCode Posts: 205member
    Also, I think it’s great they didn’t turn the show in to an iPhone commercial. I don’t think that should be a requirement. As a plus it will not give away the bad guys 
    lolliver
  • Reply 13 of 26
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 631member
    Also, I think it’s great they didn’t turn the show in to an iPhone commercial. I don’t think that should be a requirement. As a plus it will not give away the bad guys 
    I’ve watched 7-8 TV+ shows, and not one of them was an iPhone commercial. 
    lolliverTrey_Lance
  • Reply 14 of 26
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 631member
    Looking is much better than thinking. Just watch the damn thing! It’s GOOD!
    I have to agree with you. I wasn’t even going to watch it, and now I’m all in. And honestly, I really don’t see the comparisons with Breaking Bad. At all. 
    williamlondonlolliver
  • Reply 15 of 26
    danoxdanox Posts: 534member
    What ever happened to experiencing something without preconceptions or bias? I’m halfway through the first episode and enjoying it. Good production quality.
    EASY DON’T WATCH A REMAKE OF A MARGINAL MOVIE……
  • Reply 16 of 26
    ThaliosThalios Posts: 2member
    Weird, I looooved it. Very promising, tense, great acting. 
    Japhey
  • Reply 17 of 26
    entropysentropys Posts: 2,970member
    I saw the original movie back in the 80s and was bored stiff. No, thanks.
    First thread post, negative, how MR, thanks for your nothing review of not watching it. FFS. Perhaps next time, leave it, nothing added to the discussion except nothing.

    Loved the original with Harrison Ford (and I'm not a CA hippy boomer, fucking hell @entropys, don't be an ass). Looking forward to watching it, keeping an open mind and hoping for the best but to be honest doubtful it can live up to the original. Stranger things, however, do happen.
    :smiley: 
    Japhey
  • Reply 18 of 26
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 20,183member
    Read other reviews on MC. They have been rather brutal. I'll skip it.

    Btw, Ted Lasso is simply superb. I have not laughed so loudly and hard since the third season of Big Bang Theory. 
  • Reply 19 of 26
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,311member
    The reviewer should always state how many episodes they got to see, this is best practice. As is I don’t know where he’s coming from. 

    We watched the first two and thought it enjoyable. 
  • Reply 20 of 26
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,164administrator
    The reviewer should always state how many episodes they got to see, this is best practice. As is I don’t know where he’s coming from. 

    We watched the first two and thought it enjoyable. 
    If it's less than "the entire season," we say so.
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