Strays had all the makings in becoming a successful film. Cute dogs? Check! Star-power voices? Check! Dogs that curse? Check!
In the same vein as an R-Rated Homeward Bound mixed with Lady and the Tramp but with lots of poop and penis jokes, Strays tells the story of Reggie (Ferrell), who is abandoned by his awful owner Doug (Will Forte) and taken in by stray, Bug (Foxx). Bug shows him the benefits of being a stray, which causes Reggie to realize how toxic his relationship with his former owner was and plan to exact revenge by biting Doug’s dick off. Reggie, Bug, and their two dog friends, Maggie (Isla Fisher) and Hunter (Randall Park), set out to Doug’s home.
Of course, chaos ensues and the group goes through many obstacles in order to finally get to Doug. Throughout their journey, they are tested by hawks, mushrooms, and Animal Control, which does yield some funny moments, but also cringe-worthy moments, including a jail cell filled with poop, which the guard predictably falls into, in order for the dogs to escape.
Initially, the film’s vulgarity and dirty jokes are welcoming — Bug mouthing expletives to cats and humans was hilarious. But, it got to a point where it just fell flat and worn out. There are only so many jokes to be made about Hunter’s large penis and Bug’s sexual relationship with the couch. Even the “heart” of the film, which includes Bug changing his stance on stray-dom, felt unearned. The VFX for the film was fine for what it was — just simple moving dog mouths and creating hallucinations for the dogs high on shrooms.
The story’s sad moments were extremely sad because they ring true for many dogs who are left behind or given up. It does spark an interest in pet adoption because the reality is that so many dogs (and other animals) need good homes. If that’s the message the film is trying to imply, then they succeeded in invoking that feeling of wanting a pet to love.
Directed by Josh Greenbaum, who brought the sensational Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar, Strays was disappointing and predictable and could have easily been fixed if they moved on from overplayed jokes into something more meaningful. The film is meant to be crude, but that shouldn’t overpower the story.
*This review was written during the WGA and SAG/AFTRA strike. To support the strike, please donate to the Entertainment Community Fund.*