Dogs get hilariously filthy in over-the-top comedy Strays
When dogs are at the center of a movie, there are typically one of four ways the story will go. It’ll either be cute, inspirational, sad, or horrific. What’s rarely, if ever, been tried is to make a comedy about dogs that’s absolutely filthy, which is the case with the bonkers new R-rated film, Strays.
The movie doesn’t tiptoe around its intentions, as it dives right in to Reggie’s (voice of Will Ferrell) dysfunctional relationship with his reluctant owner, Doug (Will Forte). Doug, stuck with Reggie after a breakup, treats Reggie like absolute garbage, although Reggie doesn’t see that way. He views all the mistreatment as a fun game, including the times when Doug takes him far from home, throws a ball for him to chase, and then speeds away.
On one such “adventure,” Reggie finds himself stuck in the unfamiliar surroundings of a city, and soon meets up with other stray dogs, including Bug (Jamie Foxx), Maggie (Isla Fisher), and Hunter (Randall Park). The others do their best to make Reggie understand what a bad owner Doug actually is, eventually coming up with a plan for revenge that’s grotesque yet hilarious.
Directed by Josh Greenbaum and written by Dan Perrault, the film is a hard juxtaposition of the cuteness of the dogs and the profane way in which they talk to each other. Just imagine any dirty behavior that a typical dog does, and then imagine it amplified by 10, and you’ll get a good idea of what the film has to offer. Sniffing butts and humping legs is the least of it.
Those who don’t know going in that it’s an outrageous comedy will be in for quite the rude awakening. The film seems to get away with a lot simply because of the fact that dogs are the source of most of the irreverent dialogue and actions. If the same things were tried with humans, it wouldn’t work, but there’s just something about seeing dogs do them that never fails to be entertaining. A jailbreak scene in third act will likely be the source of Internet fodder for years to come.
For a while, it appears as if the filmmakers will just be using the actors to voice the dogs’ inner thoughts, but then they use CGI to make the dogs’ mouths move, which isn’t always successful. Actual dogs were used in filming, and they turn out to be very believable as actors, no matter they’re asked to do. However, seeing them talk never quite feels right, even if it’s not a fatal decision.
Ferrell is the absolute perfect voice for Reggie, as – much as he did in Elf – he’s able to give him an innocence that makes his discoveries about the world that much funnier. Foxx is a great complement to him, dialing up righteous indignation that fits the story well. Fisher and Park are also fantastic, as is Forte, who really knows how to play a scumbag.
Strays has one thing on its mind – being as over-the-top as possible – and it succeeds mightily in putting that on screen. The dogs in the film are as appealing in looks as they are disgusting in their behavior, a combination that makes for a very funny time at the movies.
Strays opens in theaters on August 18.