Good Evening
Good Evening

‘Future Man’ review: Hulu’s sci-fi action-comedy falls flat

Josh Hutcherson plays a janitor and gamer tasked

Josh Hutcherson plays a janitor and gamer tasked with preventing the extinction of humanity in "Future Man." Credit: Hulu / Brandon Hickman

THE SERIES “Future Man”

WHEN | WHERE Starts streaming Tuesday on Hulu

WHAT IT’S ABOUT Josh Futturman (Josh Hutcherson) is a janitor at a lab involved in cutting-edge research in (ummm) STDs, specifically herpes. His boss, Dr. Kronish (Keith David), is kindly, but some others at this lab are not so kindly. In between swabbing floors and scrubbing toilets, Josh plays Biotic Wars, a ridiculously hard video game that no one has ever beaten. Then, one fine day, Josh finally wins, and at the moment of victory a pair of the game’s protagonists appear before him: Tiger (Eliza Coupe) and her demolitions-expert sidekick, Wolf (Derek Wilson). Tiger tells Josh that the game is actually a recruitment and training tool sent back in time from the year 2162, and designed to find the one person “with the skills to save us.” The “us” are remnant humans, forced into the underground resistance to battle the “biotics.” Josh is the guy who is now their last, best hope. Deploying a TTD — or Time Travel Device — the three head back in time to 1969 for a special mission.

MY SAY “Future Man” comes with a couple of significant firsts, which is almost always a reasonable pretext for a review if not necessarily a reasonable one for watching. Foremost, this is the first TV series for “Hunger Games” breakout star Josh Hutcherson, and the first TV comedy series from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. This also features one of the final roles of wonderful character actor Glenne Headly, who died in June at 62. She plays Josh’s mom in a few brief scenes. (The first episode is dedicated to her.)

So, a good enough pretext to watch? Well ... Get beyond the names, the “firsts” and Headly and that pretext does start to fray. Too much of this is standard-issue Rogen/Goldberg, with violence, raw language and plotting that’s occasionally so lazy it hardly rises to the level of plot: more like a fast dash through chase scenes, fight scenes and comic relief scenes. It can be tired and exhausting, and you start to wonder if the best line is the one that comes before the opening credits: “Intended for mature audiences only.(Seriously?)

But depending on your tolerance (or maturity) there’s some cause for hope, too. “Future Man” is mostly good-natured, never takes itself seriously, and maintains a steady stream of movie sci-fi 1980-2000 references that are intended as homage. As Josh himself observes, the entire plot-such-as-it-is comes from 1984’s “The Last Starfighter.” The finale, “Pandora’s Mailbox,” is a particularly clever tribute to James Cameron. It’s almost worth waiting for, or skipping to, and offers promise for an improved “Future Man 2.”

 BOTTOM LINE Mostly lame, but also good-natured, with an amusing finale.

More Entertainment