“The Mosquito Coast”
Cast: Justin Theroux (“Mulholland Drive”), Melissa George (“30 Days of Night”), Logan Polish (“The Astronaut Farmer”), Gabriel Bateman (“Child’s Play”)
Airs: The seven-episode series premieres Friday on Apple TV+.
The premise: Inventor Allie Fox (Justin Theroux) uproots his family for Mexico when they suddenly find themselves on the run from the U.S. government.
“The Mosquito Coast” is adapted from the bestselling novel of the same name written by Paul Theroux, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Theroux is the uncle of actor Justin Theroux and both are executive producers on the series. A film based on the novel was released in 1986 and starred Harrison Ford, River Phoenix and Helen Mirren.
Highs: Allie Fox is an idealist who believes that America is tearing itself apart from the inside out. When he examines the state of the country, Allie doesn’t see a rich nation that’s a world leader. He sees a society that’s been ruined by consumerism.
While the United States, and the world in general, seem to be a complete mess, Allie also believes there is always a solution to any problem. The trick is getting people to do what is necessary to make things right.
Allie’s beliefs will feel familiar to many, but what makes him unique is the strength of his convictions. He doesn’t just talk the talk when it comes to poverty, climate change or equality — he’s actually trying to do something about it. His family lives off the grid, grows their own food and uses devices they made to power their home. But even that’s not enough for Allie.
A brilliant inventor, Allie believes he’s come up with a scientific solution to help impoverished areas without electricity easily and efficiently create ice. He thinks his invention could help people in poor countries with no access to electricity preserve food and medicines.
There is no doubt Allie is a genius, but his commitment to helping mankind has taken a toll on his family, particularly his son, Charlie (Gabriel Bateman), and daughter, Dina (Logan Polish). The Fox kids are isolated from their peers and much of the outside world. They aren’t allowed to have cellphones, rarely watch TV and have no idea what “Star Wars” or an Xbox are. While this sounds ideal to some, Allie also keeps his family on the move.
For reasons unknown to both the audience and his children, Allie is being hunted by the NSA. This requires frequent moves and identity changes, making for a challenging life as Dina, Charlie and Allie’s wife, Margot (Melissa George), long to put down roots. The Fox family knows their life isn’t normal, but they believe in Allie so strongly they’ll follow him wherever he wants to go and no matter how dangerous the situation gets.
Lows: What exactly did Allie Fox do to get the U.S. government so riled up? It’s a question the audience will be wondering during the first two episodes. Allie certainly seems harmless enough. He doesn’t carry any weapons, doesn’t appear to be a domestic terrorist and honestly seems like a decent man who just wants to help humanity. To be sure, Allie can ride some morally ambiguous lines. But when it comes to his actions, nothing about him seems worthy of any kind of government entanglement. Not knowing what Allie has done will be an annoying itch viewers can’t scratch early in the season.
Grade: (B+): The weight of this series rests squarely on the shoulders of Justin Theroux, who plays a character that could easily be viewed as deplorable if not played by the right actor. Thankfully, Theroux is perfect for this role and you’re going to like Allie Fox despite his numerous flaws.
Part MacGyver, part David Attenborough and part charismatic public speaker Allie is enjoyable to watch, even as he puts his family through an endless series of challenging scenarios.
Gazette TV critic Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.