It’s no secret that I love dogs. I’m an animal lover to begin with, but dogs have a special place in my heart. So, normally when there is dog-centric cinema, I’m on high alert for an emotionally manipulative death. Luckily, Strays is far from that kind of a film. A raunchy comedy about canines on a revenge mission of sorts, it’s far more broad than that. At the same time, there’s a bit more going on than you might expect. The kind of movie that makes a Marley & Me joke but also has multiple comedy set-pieces centered around feces isn’t exactly going to be high art, but it endeavors to consistently make you laugh. Do all of the jokes hit? No. Do more of them land than I was expecting? Most definitely.
Strays has a very dirty mind, that’s for sure, but it also has a surprisingly pure heart at its core. Almost everyone going in will expect the former, though the latter may be sprung on some. One has to assume that anyone buying a ticket to Strays is signing up for raunch. They basically already know if they’re going to like it or not. I’m here to confirm that they will, while hoping that some who think they won’t will give it a shot.
Reggie (voice of Will Ferrell) is a Border Terrier who loves his owner Doug (Will Forte) unconditionally. Now, Reggie is a naive optimist, so he doesn’t realize that Doug is a complete dirtbag who has no interest in him. Everything is a game, despite it being a wholly abusive relationship. When Doug finally succeeds in abandoning Reggie, dropping him hours away in the city, it only dawns on him that something is up when longtime stray Bug (voice of Jamie Foxx), a streetwise Boston Terrier, clues him in.
While bursting his bubble, Bug introduces him to life on the streets, and it certainly has its appeal, but initially Reggie just wants to go home to Doug. However, once Bug as well as his friends Maggie (voice of Isla Fisher), an Australian Shepherd, and Hunter (voice of Randall Park), a Great Dane, get him to understand, he begins vengeful. Now, he wants to get back to Doug, not to reunite, but to bite a very special appendage of. The trio join him, forming a pack. Maggie and Hunter aren’t strays, but they find a kindred spirit in Reggie, wanting to help him on his quest. Reggie may be full of naivety, Bug full of anger and suspicion towards humans, Maggie full of wasted intelligence, and Hunter full of anxiety, but together, they’re an unstoppable team.
The voice work is adequate and amusing, even if it’s never going above and beyond. The main quartet of Will Ferrell, Isla Fisher, Jamie Foxx, and Randall Park all focus on their comedic timing. It’s almost more of a stand up performance than anything else. At the same time, Ferrell and Foxx have lightly dramatic moments that work. Mostly, the group has solid chemistry together, which is key to Strays working. Will Forte is the only real human of note in the cast and he basically plays the worst person possible. It’s not deep, but it inspires a few pretty funny bits. Supporting players, both on screen and contributing voice work, include Josh Gad, Harvey Guillén, Greta Lee, Dennis Quaid, Rob Riggle, Sofía Vergara, and more.
Director Josh Greenbaum last made Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, and while he doesn’t have a screenplay by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig this time around, the one he has from Dan Perrault is still pretty funny. It’s low art, to be sure, and easy to pick at, but the laugh quotient is pretty high. Greenbaum doesn’t focus much on the logistics or reality of the situation, focusing
Strays is filthy yet lovable. The combination could have felt off, but it feels surprisingly natural here. Again, you probably already know if this is for you or not. After all, it’s foul-mouthed dogs on a mission. Assuming it is for you, dive in and enjoy the raunchy comedy goodness!