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Mosquito Coast

1 rating: -3.0
A movie directed by Peter Weir

Based on the novel by Paul Theroux, an inventor disillusioned by the growing bureaucracy of America uproots his family to build a utopia in the jungle of Central America. There he finds new threats to his freedom and peace of mind, with tragic results. … see full wiki

Cast: Helen Mirren
Director: Peter Weir
Release Date: 1986
MPAA Rating: PG
1 review about Mosquito Coast

One man and a few other minor people who don't matter

  • Sep 19, 2007
Pros: Not a totally sucky story

Cons: No other character other than Allie was fleshed out at all

The Bottom Line: I want to find a way to recommend it, but I can't after taking a closer look at it. The focus is just too narrow and unlikeable

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

I originally saw The Mosquito Coast when I was 17. I saw it because of River Phoenix. I knew one or two things about decent cinema at 17, but come on, I’m gay and this is River Phoenix. I was disappointed then; with about 20 more years past I can say that I am less disappointed now.

Allie Fox (Harrison Ford) is a know-it-all inventor who sees America of the early to mid 80s as a place of violence, decay, and impending nuclear war. Since he and his never ending slew of facts and opinions are not appreciated, he decides—literally on the spur of a few moments to move his family to the middle of the Central American jungle to start . . . well . . . he doesn’t exactly say in clear terms. Mother (Helen Mirren) and what appears to be about 6 or 7 children, chief among them are Charlie (Mr. Phoenix and Jerry (Jadrien Steele), the oldest. They get to the jungle by boat also carrying an evangelical missionary, Rev. Spellgood (Andre Gregory) and his daughter Emily (Martha Plimpton).

Once there, Mr. Fox obtains a village basically by taking advantage of a drunken man. The village comes with a few huts and a few residents. Mr. Fox and his family work with the residents to create what is basically a Utopia. Here Mr. Fox spends so much of his energy doing that he doesn’t spend too much time proselytizing about how much better things are in the world he has created. Then hubris and the real world enter. If what you have is truly a Utopia, then power and/or real world are rampant viruses that will destroy a carefully built paradise as quickly as ebola can kill a person. I will not go into further detail here in case someone uses this review to decide to see the film.

I didn’t notice it when I was younger because I saw the film for prurient reasons, which turned out to be disappointing anyway (to be frank), nor could I because I didn’t know enough history of a more recent variety.

The village, Geronimo, is modeled pretty closely on Jonestown. The main differences being that Jonestown had more people and didn’t come with residents already there. Jonestown and Geronimo are controlled by domineering men who believe they have the answers to everything. Both men also believed that the world was close to a nuclear holocaust. And both villages fell apart when the real world invaded (though I will say that Geronimo didn’t end nearly as badly).

The Rev. Spellgood arrives and faces the wrath of Allie (also called Father by the way). They faced off on the boat before. The Reverend comes to try to get the people to come to his church. Allie almost loses his mind. This is when one strong headed minister faces off with another strong headed minister. Who wins and who loses isn’t the point (if you can even call one a winner). The point is what Allie believes himself to be. This is the first instance of the real world and unsheathed hubris show up. You can even see this incident as the match held very closely to a highly fueled and relatively long fuse.

When he finishes building his huge ice maker (this gives nothing away, it is basically the central idea) he screams “This is why I came.” He didn’t build it alone, he didn’t come to the jungle alone, but he alone built the ice man apparently. He is fine for a while providing ice to all comers for free and air conditioning to the village. But then he realizes that everything is functioning just fine. Now what? Now it is time to take ice into the inner reaches of the jungle where there is apparently a village whose people had never seen either white man nor ice. He is only pleased when he is doing what he sees as the impossible and is even more pleased when he has a small army of people at his whim. Now the flame is burning towards the bomb. How and when the bomb explodes are bits I will leave to either the imagination or to the viewer who doesn’t want to know more.

Unfortunately Mr. Hubris is the shining star. Charlie narrates throughout, but the show belongs totally to Allie which makes it difficult to swallow. I reviewed The Squid and the Whale a movie that had a similar domineering father. The difference between Allie and Bernard is their role. Allie is the god; Bernard is one of an ensemble. Neither man is at all likeable, but one works because the cast gets to work with him. And this truly had to suck for all those involved in The Mosquito Coast because they sweated like dogs through most of it and risked real drowning in another section of the film.

Peter Weir did some good work both before this and after, but this film just doesn’t quite rise to the level of Picnic at Hanging Rock or even Dead Poet’s Society (a film that doesn’t quite strike me as heavily now as it did 20 years ago, but is still not bad). If it had been the first film by Mr. Weir, I don’t think I would have sought him out as I did later.


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