Strays Movie Review
Strays Movie Review Metadata
There’s an old Hollywood saying to never work with children or animals, but leave it to producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller to up the ante after their recent encounter with a cocaine-fueled bear with the new raunchy comedy Strays. Not your run-of-the-mill Scooby Doo film or tear-jerker movie like Marley & Me, writer Dan Perrault (who made a name for himself with the hilarious mockumentary American Vandal) pens a bawdy, adults-only movie that isn’t afraid to disgust or offend its viewers. As actress Isla Fisher recently shared, “It’s about time there was a dog movie that wasn’t for kids!” And oh boy, she isn’t kidding – this is not a film for young ones. Unless that is you don’t mind them learning all about the birds and the bees (or in this case dogs and gnomes, yard art, and other dogs) or learning many of George Carlin’s seven words you can’t say on TV.
Reggie (voiced by Will Ferrell) lives a life where “every day is the best day ever.” He’s a simple dog who loves sunshine and butterflies but as he tells us, “more than anything, [he] loves Doug.” Doug (Will Forte) is Reggie’s owner but not just any owner. Nope, Doug is “the best owner in the whole world.” Acts of being thrown off the bed or dropped far from home are viewed as fun games when in reality Doug will go to any length to rid himself of a dog he blames for his failed relationship. It’s only when Reggie is unable to find his way home and stumbles upon life outside of his owner that he realizes perhaps his life isn’t as perfect as he imagined.
While lost in the city, Reggie meets Bug (voiced by Jamie Foxx), a Boston Terrier who couldn’t be more different than him. Bug lives his life by three simple rules (not all printable), he’s carefree, and above everything, he’s owner free which allows him to “do whatever the f–k [he] wants.” What Bug also has that Reggie doesn’t is friends that aren’t human, including Maggie (an Australian Shepherd voiced by Fisher) and Hunter (a Great Dane therapy dog voiced by Randall Park). It is through Reggie’s chance encounter with Bug that he not only introduces him to a world he never knew existed, but it opens his eyes to the fact that he can be friends with other dogs and, most importantly, that perhaps Doug wasn’t so great after all. It’s this last part that hits him hardest and leads him to enact a plan of revenge against his ruthless owner.
Behind the humor, Strays has a purpose. It’s a story of friendship and, more importantly, a story that shines a light on abusive relationships. Like many in toxic relationships, Reggie shrugs off Doug’s behavior because “real love is never easy.” Reggie can’t see Doug’s despicable behavior because he masks it with the good – or what he sees as good. And Reggie sees Doug as someone who lives for him as much as he lives for Doug when in reality Doug might be the world’s biggest a–hole. If anything, he’s the worst pet owner…ever.
Strays is at its best when poking fun at how dogs see our world. While dogs can’t talk, Perrault seems to have nailed what dogs may really think of what we do with their excrement, why they get so angry at the dog on the other side of the mirror, and how an invisible fence works. Director Josh Greenbaum’s casting of Will Ferrell as the voice for the naive Reggie couldn’t be better as is his casting of Josh Gad in a small, but hilarious role. And truth be told, there is quite a bit that is funny in the film. What’s disappointing, however, is that as a whole Strays struggles. Simply put, it’s a movie in which the parts are far better than the sum. So much so that after reflection, the script feels like Perrault first developed a set of funny situations and then cobbled together a script to bring it all together. Plus, despite its who’s who of comedic actors, only Ferrell and Gad leap off the pages.
This summer has been the season and return of raunchy comedies, but based on far better comedies that debuted before it, Stray will likely struggle to find an audience. Pushed back to late summer when teenagers are returning to school, the film would have been better sent directly to streaming than premiering on the big screen.
Dogs may be man’s best friend, but Strays long term will not be viewed the same.