Anyone complaining that they don’t make comedies like they used to must not be paying attention. There’s FX’s long-running sitcom It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. We’ve also seen recent theatrical releases like No Hard Feelings and Bottoms, throwbacks to the 80’s sex comedies. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have produced their share of ribald revelries like The Boys, Sausage Party, Joy Ride, and Good Boys. Now, we have Strays, a raunchy, R-rated take on Homeward Bound with a talented voice cast and several power players behind the scenes.
Strays was produced by Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, who brought us Cocaine Bear and Mitchells vs. The Machines, along with Louis Leterrier (huh?), director of The Incredible Hulk and Fast X. The script comes to us via Dan Perrault, writer of Netflix’s American Vandal, a parody of true crime documentaries. Finally, the director of Strays is Josh Greenbaum, a veteran of sitcoms such as New Girl and Fresh Off the Boat, along with the Kristen Wiig vehicle Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar.
Will Ferrell is in full Buddy the Elf mode as Reggie, a scruffy Border Terrier reminiscent of Benji. Poor Reggie is so sweet-natured and naive, he doesn’t realize his owner Doug (Will Forte) is a horrible jerk. Doug is an unemployed slob who spends his days smoking weed and masturbating. He cares more about his bong than Reggie and only kept the little pup to spite his ex-girlfriend. Doug has tried several times to ditch Reggie, only for the clever canine to find his way home each time. When Doug’s precious bong is destroyed, he dumps Reggie hours away in the next town over, hoping to finally be rid of him.
While wandering the streets, Reggie meets the streetwise Bug (Jamie Foxx), a stray Boston Terrier who is the proverbial small dog with a big dog attitude. Bug also introduces Reggie to Hunter (Randall Park), a Great Dane whose timid nature got him kicked off the police force, and Maggie (Isla Fisher), an Australian Shepherd constantly annoyed by her owner, a clout seeking social media influencer. Together, they show Reggie the freedom that comes from roaming the streets and how much of a rotten owner Doug truly was. As a result, Reggie decided to embark on a journey of revenge to bite Doug’s penis off.
Strays is a patchwork of familiar themes with the protagonist’s journey of self-discovery being recycled from Lord and Miller’s The Lego Movie and even the recently released Barbie. The fiercely independent Bug learning there are positives to having a human family was also seen in DC’s League of Super Pets. Some of the humor is as repetitive as a dog chasing its own tail. The filmmakers seem to love scatological humor and animals humping each other. As usual, the CGI to make the animals’ mouths move while they talk never looks quite right. We’ve come a long way from just giving them a dab of peanut butter.
In spite of all that, Strays has a certain charm by seeing the world strictly from a dog’s point of view. They refer to the mailman as the devil and think that Armageddon is on the way when fireworks go off. They pounce on anything edible that falls to the ground like ravenous piranha. All familiar behavior to anyone who ever owned a dog. It also feels cathartic to see animals get their revenge on someone who treated them so poorly. Josh Gad drops in for a clever cameo as the movie pokes fun at the cloying tone of A Dog’s Purpose. This being an adult comedy, there’s a requisite sequence where Reggie and the gang get high on psychedelic mushrooms that plays a tiny bit with animation and sock puppets. However, the movie could have gotten far more creative as in the HFS scenes from 21 Jump Street.
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The picture quality is pristine with sharp details like Reggie’s fur on full display.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Nothing too spectacular here, just perfectly functional. Dialogue is crisp and clear with the soundtrack (including “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus) bringing the most oomph.
Talk Like a Dog (7:10) is all about the voice actors and what they brought to the personalities of the dogs.
The Ultimate Treat: Making Strays (6:34) takes us through the story concept, casting, and production.
Poop, Booms and Shrooms (6:41) looks at the making of the film’s main sequences, such as the fireworks scene (which employed a camera on top of a remote control car), and the climactic confrontation with Doug.
Will Forte: Stray Actor (5:57) is a behind-the-scenes featurette spotlighting Will Forte as the cast and crew jokingly refer to the actor as a real-life dirtbag.
Training to Be Stray (5:30) looks at the dog trainers and how they were able to wrangle the animals for their scenes. Hint: cheese.
A New Best Friend (3:36) features the cast and crew discussing their own dogs and how the director even adopted one of the rescue dogs who played Reggie.
Rounding out the extras is a commentary track with Josh Greenbaum and Dan Perrault.
Film Value: 6
For anyone sensitive to violence against animals, no worries. This isn’t John Wick. Strays is a lowbrow comedy with a solid gimmick, plus enough cursing and red rockets to earn its R-rating. It’s a fun romp full of profanity and leg humping, but ultimately forgettable for anyone who might not be a diehard dog enthusiast.