1 of 5 | Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in "FUBAR." Photo courtesy of Netflix
LOS ANGELES, May 25 (UPI) -- Since James Cameron never made True Lies 2, FUBAR seemed like Arnold Schwarzenegger's chance. Unfortunately, the series, on Netflix on Friday, is a sad attempt to recapture blockbuster glory.
Luke (Schwarzenegger) is a CIA spy, who has kept his real job a secret from his family, just like in True Lies. On the verge of retirement, Luke discovers his daughter, Emma (Monica Barbaro), also has been a CIA agent.
This is blatantly reskinning True Lies with the thinnest of differences. Instead of his wife joining the spy action, it's his daughter.
But, CIA work did ruin Luke's marriage to Tally (Fabiana Udenio). Luke hopes he can win her back in retirement, but Tally already has moved on with a man who seems perfectly caring, so not a slimy used car salesman at least.
Luke already has grandchildren from his non CIA children, so the Brunner family is more expansive and blended than the nuclear family unit of True Lies. It doesn't add any depth to FUBAR, though.
FUBAR wants to be a comedic family action caper, too, only it's not written by James Cameron or based on a French comedy. Instead, FUBAR thinks it's cute that Luke is offended when Emma swears.
Really? A hardened CIA agent would draw the line at his daughter saying the F word? Also, this show is on Netflix. Swearing is part of the whole point.
There are legitimate conflicts between a father and daughter doing this job. Being precious about language undermines Luke both as a spy and a father. Parents know their adult children cuss. If they don't, it's not funny to see them infantilize grown-ups.
Schwarzenegger proved himself a skilled comedic actor with Twins and Kindergarten Cop, but it is embarrassing watching him be grossed out by Emma's vibrator. Needless to say, Luke's one-liners are a far cry from "I'll Be Back" or "It's not a tumor."
Obviously, Emma will have to go on a seduction mission that will make her dad uncomfortable. That premise has potential, but the joke that Luke actually expects his 28-year-old daughter to be virginal would be outdated in 1994, let alone 2023.
Having to talk about sex with your parents is a valid cringe-comedy situation, but pretending adults are oblivious that their children are functioning adults is beneath everyone involved in this show.
If that's not convincing enough about the subpar comedy in FUBAR, note that Luke also refers to a character named Dr. Pfeffer (Scott Thompson) as Dr. Pepper. You know, because that's a soda. Har har.
There is a funny visual where a henchman is cleaning up the remains of a bloody gunshot a few scenes after the ultraviolet scene. That's the only hint at genuine irreverence toward the action genre.
The action is utterly unacceptable. The whole point of Netflix overspending on shows was supposed to be so that it could compete with movies.
FUBAR only features a vehicular chase on an entirely straight path, a helicopter shooting into a crowd of bad guys who scatter and a heist that merely involves impersonating a firefighter.
No one's expecting Schwarzengger to do stunts. The lead actor wouldn't do the dangerous stunts in his heyday, either, but FUBAR boasts less action than the CBS remake of True Lies.
FUBAR had all the potential to give Schwarzenegger a new action-comedy vehicle as a streaming series. Unfortunately, it's as tired as lame generation gap comedies already were in the '80s.
Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.