Del reviews ‘FUBAR’
“FUBAR” Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Monica Barbaro, Milan Carter, Gabriel Luna, Fortune Feimster, and Travis Van Winkle. Directed by Holly Dale, Steven A. Adelson, Phil Abraham, Stephen Surijik. Eight episodes. 45-59 minutes each. Rated TV-MA. Netflix.
“FUBAR,” the new Netflix series starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, should be funnier than it is. The problem is threefold:
1. Schwarzenegger still struggles with English, which means the sweet spot of his jokes comes and goes before he finishes bludgeoning his way through the dialogue.
2. “FUBAR” is not tightly edited, resulting in snappy comebacks that fall flat because they’re not very snappy.
3. The script provides an unending stream of cornball jokes minus the self-awareness that made shows like the 1960s classic, “Get Smart,” so hilarious.
That’s a shame because “FUBAR” could be a knee-slapper. Its central conceit – that a father and daughter are forced to work together after hiding from each other their careers as CIA operatives – offers a degree of comedic potential. Given the right creators, “FUBAR” could become an action-comedy classic. Alas, that potential is not met, at least not yet.
Schwarzenegger’s character is Luke Brunner, a longtime CIA agent who is retiring after a long and violent career of making the world safe for American corporations. He hopes to purchase a boat (“It’s a ship, not a boat,” is a running joke throughout the series) and sail the world with his ex-wife (Fabiano Udenio as Tally Brunner), a casualty of Luke’s career. But his close ties with Boro Polonia (Gabriel Luna), a Central American thug who is trying to sell a suitcase nuclear bomb to terrorists, means Luke must saddle-up for a final mission to save mankind.
When he arrives at Polonia’s jungle redoubt, Luke discovers his daughter (Monica Barbaro as Emma Brunner) is also a CIA operative who is also working the Polonia case. It is from this point “FUBAR” embarks on a silly globe-trotting adventure, in the tradition of a Dollar Tree James Bond, as father and daughter bicker about their fractured relationship and the fractured relationships of those around them while they battle the forces of evil.
Iffy special effects, naughty language and well-worn points of conflict bring a level of tedium to the journey. Emma’s constant whining about how her father was “never there” for her as a child becomes an annoying refrain by the second act of the first episode – imagine seven more episodes of the same. It’s the equivalent of a 3-year-old pitching a temper tantrum in the cereal aisle at Kroger’s.
The supporting cast offers little respite. Luke’s wise-cracking lesbian No. 2, Roo (Fortune Feimster), is more vulgar than clever, and self-described “honey-pot” entrapment guru Aldon (Travis Van Winkle) oscillates from earnest pathos to plain-old dick with no consistency. Only Luna presents the same face and to be honest, earns a degree of empathy as the boy whose father was murdered by the elder Brunner and is hellbent on making the world pay.
“FUBAR” resorts to the goofy wisecracks of Schwarzenegger’s earlier efforts, including those of a certain James Cameron cyborg (or Harlan Ellison, depending on whom you ask), but again, the loose editing draws the venom from these bites. It all comes across as shopworn and a little pathetic.
There may be a second season of “FUBAR.” If so, let’s hope new writers will endow this series with the cleverness it deserves. Schwarzenegger is capable of being funny but it’s a specialized flavor of humor, one that plays off his size, bulk, and Teutonic roots. That isn’t happening at the moment.
I grade the current iteration of “FUBAR” as a C. It’s harmless, silly fun, but it needs an injection of actual humor, and its physical production requires improvement.
Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.