When the law catches up with Allie (Justin Theroux, right), he goes on the run with his wife (Melissa George, left) and their children (Logan Polish, foreground, and Gabriel Bateman) in “The Mosquito Coast.” | AppleTV+
When an insufferable man is putting his family in danger and spouting hippie-B.S. philosophy, it’s hard to care about his adventures on the run.
Like “Breaking Bad” and “Ozark,” the Apple TV+ limited series “The Mosquito Coast” is about an American family of four — husband, wife, daughter, son — who are thrust into a life of constant danger due to the patriarch’s selfish and criminal actions, which he always justifies by saying he’s doing it for the good of his loved ones.
“Breaking Bad” and “Ozark” are among the very best series of the 21st century. “The Mosquito Coast” is not.
We never even get close to the Mosquito Coast region in “The Mosquito Coast,” and if there’s a Season Two that goes there, you can count me out. This is the second adaptation of the 1981 novel of the same name by Paul Theroux (the first was the underrated Peter Weir feature film from 1986 starring Harrison Ford in one of his finest performances) and it strays so far from the source material it’s a wonder they even kept the name. Perhaps it’s because the star and producer of this wildly uneven, consistently implausible and irritatingly inconsistent version is the undeniably talented Justin Theroux, nephew of the author.
“The Mosquito Coast” kicks off in Stockton, California, where the mercurial and eccentric would-be inventor Allie (Theroux) is living off the grid with his family, including his exceedingly and at times inexplicably loyal wife Margot (Melissa George) and their children Dina (Logan Polish) and Charlie (Gabriel Bateman). Young Charlie is still at that age where he worships his father and hangs on dad’s every word about how the corporate establishment and the government are evil entities bent on controlling their lives, while 15-year-old Dina has entered a rebellious stage where she resents being home-schooled and not being allowed to have a phone. And she’s tired of her parents’ cryptic references to the past and whatever it is Allie did that has them always looking over their shoulder, waiting for the day when the authorities track them down.
When that day arrives, Allie hastily arranges for an escape to Mexico, and the next thing you know the family is getting mixed up in all sorts of dangerous escapades involving a powerful drug cartel; a coyote named Chuy (Scotty Tovar) who agrees to sneak them across the border; two NSA agents (Kimberly Elise and James LeGros) consumed with tracking them down, and various assassins and thugs and crime kingpins who want Allie dead. It’s … ludicrous. Time and again, the kids demand to know WHY they’ve had to spend their entire lives on the run — and inevitably there’s some soap-opera-level interruption to keep the suspense, such as it is, going.
This is a good-looking show with the talented cast doing everything they can to sell the material, but it’s a major problem when the lead character is such an insufferable, selfish, reckless hypocrite who is forever spouting his hippie-B.S. philosophy even as he hardly blinks when he leaves a trail of blood in his wake and continues to endanger his family. When daughter Dina finally explodes and says, “Do you know how deranged you sound? People are dead, dad. Actual people are actually dead,” all we can say is: Amen, Dina.