'Fubar' Review: Arnold Schwarzenegger's debut in the Netflix TV series is recognizablely garbled

Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix

Monica Barbaro and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Netflix series Fubar.


Arnold Schwarzenegger makes the natural rise from movie star to California governor to Netflix series with Fubar, a father-daughter version of his 1994 James Cameron film True Lies. It is the star’s series debut. It’s a lean idea that spans eight parts (and possibly more) and — aside from the military abbreviation — it’s depraved in a mostly recognizable way.

Here, father and daughter have both kept secret lives secret, a la “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” before being forced to join forces by the CIA. Schwarzenegger’s Luke Brunner is actually close to retirement when he discovers his daughter Emma (“Top Gun: Maverick”s” Monica Barbaro) was recruited years earlier, leading him to put off his plans to live a quieter life and win back his ex and her mother (Fabiana Udenio) after years of lying marred their relationship.

Emma is rather awkwardly following in her father’s footsteps in this regard and is dating nerdy and clueless Carter (Jay Baruchel), who seems to be grounding her, although there’s the minor matter of all the bad guys she’s in on with in her secret interacts day job.

Executive Producer: Nick Santora (“reacher”) and Schwarzenegger among others, the series taps into Schwarzenegger’s innate sympathy and gift for dropping sly one-liners when it comes to acts of violence (see “Commando”). Barbaro more than holds her own as a captivating super spy – at least when she’s not arguing with her father.

Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix

Monica Barbaro and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Fubar.

Still, almost every moment of the show has a nagging “on” note, not least due to the witty nature of the banter among members of her top squad, which includes his office-bound wingman (Milan Carter), whom Emma used to call Uncle Barry as a child .

In a way, streaming has become the logical go-to for big movie stars once they hit a certain age, as evidenced by the Taylor Sheridan-produced dramas spawned by Yellowstone, a stable that’s also attracted emeritus tough guys Sam Elliot, Harrison Ford And Sylvester Stallone. Schwarzenegger is such a good fit for attention-hungry Netflix that the service has also commissioned a documentary about him, Arnold, which will premiere in June.

However, the existence of this second project only reinforces the feeling that Fubar isn’t all that bad, just plain boring — an eight-hour “you might like this” button for anyone who’s recently seen a movie from the star’s heyday.

In particular a CBS reboot of “True Lies” has just been cancelled, although the combination of Schwarzenegger and similar material may be more hospitable in the less-rated streaming realms. With its cliffhanging episodes, this series tries boldly to engage viewers, but the highlights are mostly in the smaller moments, thanks to Schwarzenegger and Barbaro, rather than the otherwise rather generic plot.

As the title suggests, “Fubar” doesn’t take itself too seriously; Still, if Schwarzenegger had to “come back” to quote a certain unrelenting cyborg, one could easily wish the encore was a little more inspired.

“Fubar” starts on Netflix on May 25th.

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