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'Strays' review: Every foul mouthed dog has their day in raunchy comedy

Courtesy of Universal


Say a prayer for the parent who accidentally stumbles into “Strays” thinking it’s a harmless talking dog movie for their youngsters. Like many adult films before it with child-like sensibilities (“Sausage Party,” and “Good Boys”), if you don’t do the proper research you could be explaining to your fourth grader why that cute, adorable puppy is infusing expletives into every other word they say. “Homeward Bound” might be the inspiration, but a Disney movie this is not. In fact, you could probably make the case that “Strays” is easily the most gag-inducing dog film of its kind, complete with visual stints about gentiles, bodily fluids, and one memorable needle drop involving Miley Cyrus' Wrecking Ball.” 

Led with a top notch voice cast, “Strays” follows the journey of Reggie (voice of Will Ferrell) and his complicated relationship with his human owner, Doug (Will Forte - perfectly unhinged and easy to root against). Doug only kept Reggie to spite his ex and, in reality, doesn’t care about the little guy, even going as far to dump him three hours away from home and making him a stray. Of course, Reggie thinks Doug rules and is simply misunderstood, even as he meets Bug (Jamie Fox), a street hustler who knows all the tips of surviving in the wild (and finding a good couch to hump); Maggie (Isla Fisher) and Hunter (Randall Park), who think his former owner sucks. 

After doing some soul searching, Reggie decides he still wants to venture home, but with a different objective: he wants to, and I quote, “bite his dick off.” Obviously, it won’t be that easy, and from there, “Strays” follows familiar story beats as Reggie, Maggie, and Hunter are caught in various hurdles. Although some of them look different than their kid-friendly counterparts, like, say, a psychedelic mushroom head trip, the rescue of a lost girl in the woods, and a fireworks display that showcases a hilarious, but also tragic, understanding of what dogs feel during those intense moments. 

But some of the humor in Dan Perrault’s screenplay grows stale pretty quickly. After seeing a canine mutter the F-word for the better half of 15-minutes, it becomes a tireless and routine exercise that’ll keep middle schoolers laughing and sober adults eyeing the exit. It’s surprising that Josh Greenbaum, who helmed the instant cult classic “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar,” does little to elevate “Strays” above its novelty value. 

The film is also missing an underlying sweetness other raunchy comedies usually possess. That was a key reason why the Jennifer Lawrence comedy “No Hard Feelings” from earlier this summer thrived. It had heart. “Strays” tows the line and the dogs are undeniably lovable, but it’s mostly a series of scattershot vignettes wherein the talking animals spew a rotating arsenal of dick and poop jokes. It doesn’t have much to say about the bond dogs share with their humans. Aren’t they supposed to be man’s best friend? 

Grade: C+ 

STRAYS is now playing in theaters. 


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