6.6/10
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107 user 37 critic

The Mosquito Coast (1986)

Trailer
2:27 | Trailer
An inventor spurns his city life and moves his family into the jungles of Central America to make a utopia.

Director:

Peter Weir

Writers:

Paul Theroux (novel), Paul Schrader (screenplay)
Nominated for 2 Golden Globes. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Harrison Ford ... Allie Fox
Helen Mirren ... Mother
River Phoenix ... Charlie
Jadrien Steele Jadrien Steele ... Jerry
Hilary Gordon Hilary Gordon ... April
Rebecca Gordon Rebecca Gordon ... Clover
Jason Alexander ... Clerk
Dick O'Neill ... Mr. Polski
Alice Heffernan-Sneed Alice Heffernan-Sneed ... Mrs. Polski (as Alice Sneed)
Tiger Haynes Tiger Haynes ... Mr. Semper
William Newman ... Captain Smalls
Andre Gregory ... Reverend Spellgood
Melanie Boland Melanie Boland ... Mrs. Spellgood
Martha Plimpton ... Emily Spellgood
Raymond Clare Raymond Clare ... Convert 1
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Storyline

An eccentric and dogmatic inventor sells his house and takes his family to Central America to build a utopia in the middle of the jungle. Conflicts with his family, a local preacher, and with nature are only small obstacles to his obsession. Based on the novel by Paul Theroux. Written by Keith Loh <loh@sfu.ca>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

He never bargained for what he found. See more »


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Thq quotation cited in this movie was from T.S. Eliot's "Fragment of an Agon". See more »

Goofs

At the end of the movie, as the family is going down the river to the ocean, a far shot of their houseboat shows a propeller wake as if their outboard motor was running. However, it wasn't running in the final scene; they were just drifting downriver. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Charlie: My father was an inventor, a genius with anything mechanical. Nine patents, six pending. He dropped out of Harvard, "to get an education", he said. I grew up with the belief that the world belonged to him, and that everything he said was true.
Allie Fox: Look around ya, how did America get this way? Land of promise, land of opportunity. Give us the wretched refuse of your teeming shores. Have a Coke. Watch TV.
Charlie: Have a nice day.
Allie Fox: Go on welfare. Get free money. Turn to crime - crime pays in this ...
[...]
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Soundtracks

Silent Night
(uncredited)
Music by Franz Xaver Gruber
Lyrics by Joseph Mohr
Performed by River Phoenix, Jadrien Steele, Hilary Gordon and Rebecca Gordon
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User Reviews

A classic of the 1980's
30 August 2000 | by millennia-2See all my reviews

I can almost guarantee that anyone who has seen 'The Mosquito Coast', then looked at the subject line of this review, thinks I'm crazy. The truth is that this film is deeply flawed and undeniably weak in many regards, but it had a quality I cannot describe. This is the only film I have ever seen that, despite many shortcomings, manages to come out of the storm relatively unscathed, and become an unforgettable, almost haunting, movie.

The production values are immaculate. Peter Weir's direction is excellent, and is in top form here. He has crafted a thick shell that blocks the flaws from coming up to the surface, an indescribable feat that very few directors have accomplished. The musical score is good, not outstanding, but it's fitting, and surprisingly subtle. There is only about six minutes out of the entire film that has musical accompaniment, which makes for a very unique experience, and not necessarily a bad one. The tropical cinematography is dazzling, and the decision to shoot on location in Belize instead of on a studio back lot really paid off, contributing greatly to the film's success.

As good as the mentioned characteristics are, nothing is as good as the acting, especially that from the two leads: Harrison Ford and River Phoenix. Prior to this, Ford had made a name for himself with big budget action roles, with several failed attempts at drama (Hanover Street being the best example of that). It wasn't until 1985's 'Witness' (which Peter Weir also directed, that Ford was taken seriously as an all around actor. Personally I think Ford's performance here greatly overshadowed his work in 'Witness', and is a career best for him, even in the light of 'Regarding Henry' and 'Presumed Innocent', both made after his. He takes the character of Allie Fox, and moulds him into a selfish, driving maniac, blind to the wishes of others, only caring for himself. Phoenix, on the other hand, deserves even more acclaim, for several reasons. For one, this was only his third film, after 1985's 'Explorers', and 'Stand by Me', made right before this. Secondly, he was only 15 at the time of the shoot, and had little acting experience, yet he easily out acted most of his co-stars. Though his performance wasn't quite as refined as Ford's was, he still reached a level of near perfection and set the stage for a glorious, and ultimately tragic, career.

The story is one of utter genius, one of the few original ones popping up in an industry full of sequels, remakes and rip offs. Based on the 1981 bestseller by Paul Theroux, and co-starring Helen Mirren, 'The Mosquito Coast' deserves a place among the best films of the 80's.

But wait, I'm not done. Despite a great exterior, deep inside the movie is troubled. It's as if director Weir pushed all the movie's problems deep down under the surface, then piled layer after layer of... something, on top of it, hiding them from the clueless audience. My main problem with the movie is that it yearns to break away from it's literary roots, a problem that could've been easily avoided had the right script come along. Entire conversations are lifted from the text, and there isn't a single line that doesn't have an equal counterpart in the novel. For me this got extremely tedious as, hours before popping in the tape for a second viewing, I had finished the book, and the two are much too similar.

Another problem I have with it is that the scenes are much too short, with none of them running over about a minute and a half. An obvious result of this is that many subplots remain unresolved, and several concepts are hinted at, but go without further explanation, making for a confusing story. If the screenwriter had put a little more effort into making the film different than the book, with new scenes, we would have seen a much better end product.

A third, albeit a smaller one, is that the production team apparently spent too much time making sure that the movie would get a PG rating, though it would've been much better had it gotten an R, or even a PG-13 rating. That would've allowed Ford a little more breathing room to tweak his character, possibly allowing Allie to become less sympathetic, more of a madman.

I can't think of much more worth saying to put in this review, so I'll end it with this note: see the movie, even if you've read the book, but don't do the two back to back.


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

26 November 1986 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Mosquito Coast See more »

Filming Locations:

Baltimore, Maryland, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$25,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$110,313, 30 November 1986

Gross USA:

$14,302,779

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$14,302,779
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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