Ask any dog owner and they’ll tell you there’s truth to the adage “a dog is a man’s (or woman’s) best friend. Endlessly loyal the source of comfort, protection, and companionship. A dog won’t even ask for anything in return for their love but reciprocating that love is the least we can do.
Reggie (Will Ferrell) the naive 2-year-old Border Terrier is the dog-sonification of a good boy. With nothing but love in his heart, he sticks to his deadbeat selfish owner Doug (Will Forte). Under-fed and under-loved Reggie lives to please this pothead chronic masturbator. One day, Doug, the fiend that he is, abandons Reggie miles away from home before driving away.
Lost and afraid, Reggie soon meets Bug (Jamie Foxx) a street-smart Boston Terrier who shows him the ropes. Eat what you want to eat, hump what you want to hump, and the rules of being a stray. Bug introduces Reggie to Maggie (Isla Fisher), a gorgeous Aussie Shepard and to Hunter (Randall Park), a nervous great Dane. Reggie‘s friends help him realise how Doug has mistreated him his whole life. Thus begins a quest of revenge where Reggie will make his way back home to Doug and take the one toy he cares about. By biting his dick off!
Directed by Josh Greenbaum and written by Dan Perrault, Strays is a raunchy love letter to the types of films we watched growing up. ‘Milo & Otis’, ‘Homeward Bound’, ‘Beethoven’, ‘Cats & Dogs’ etc. These films which build on our affinity for our four-legged friends going on smaller scale adventures behind our backs. The difference is the goal here is genital mutilation…
That said, it is surprising how well the adult themes, vulgar language and other potty humour translate into the family movie framework. Young or old, we all love our pets and at the beating heart of this movie is that same innocence. Refreshingly, Strays’ added adult edge allows this movie to go into areas of the animal world which similar more family friendly films avoid altogether.
Much of the film’s more vulgar comedy holds nothing back comes from humping everything in sight, the great Dane‘s exceptionally large penis to a magic mushroom fuelled orgy of insanity. Strays also openly parodies sappy films such as ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ and ‘Marley & Me’, while simpler aspects of life as a dog are explored showing how our four heroes experience a small fireworks show with overwhelming booming sound effects.
Strays’ small voice cast fit their characters well with most of the story following just the four protagonists. Will Ferrell is always good with his fish out of water personas and his voice suits Reggie like a glove. But it is Foxx who steals the show as the foul mouthed, quick to anger but adorable Bug. Foxx hasn’t done much in the way of voice acting since his Oscar win, but here he adds a spark to every scene he appears in.
For all its highs, the script of Strays can feel a little underwhelming and simple at times. Some of the gags feel a bit weak and the story itself doesn’t take full advantage of its adult rating the way that 2016’s ‘Sausage Party’ did. But deep down there is something incredibly touching in this story of a little pup who just wishes for someone to see him as a “good dog”.
Strays doesn’t set the world on fire with anything spectacular. But its an entertaining simple story with bawdy humour that makes for a fun take on of what is traditionally known as kid friendly material. Strays is a movie for the animal lover in all of us and may inspire many pet owners (like me) to give our little buddies an extra-long and well-deserved hug.