I’m a cat person through and through, but the lore of dogs on screen has always been fascinating. While cats are deemed as cold-hearted and devious creatures, dogs are often portrayed as simple-minded happy-go-lucky man’s (or woman’s) best friend, but what happens when man abuses, torments, and neglects that BFF? They get revenge.
Strays, directed by Josh Greenbaum (Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar) and written by Dan Perrault (American Vandal), premiered in theaters on Friday, August 18. Reggie (voiced by Will Ferrell) is a positive pup who sees life through rose-colored glasses and although he is obviously being mistreated by his owner, Doug (Will Forte), Reggie continues to remain loyal. When Doug abandons Reggie in another town, Reggie meets a gang of other displaced dogs: Bug (voiced by Jamie Foxx), Maggie (voiced by Isla Fisher), and Hunter (voiced by Randall Park). The group vows to help Reggie get revenge on Doug by helping him find his way home so Reggie can bite his “member” off. No joke. That’s the plan.
Brett Gelman plays Willy, one of the few humans in the film, with Rob Riggle, Sofía Vergara, Josh Gad, Greta Lee, Jimmy Tatro, Harvey Guillén, and Jack De Sanz providing additional voices in Strays. The humor in the movie is very crude and centered around poop jokes and dog sexuality, but there were more lighthearted laughs that highlighted a dog’s fear of fireworks, hatred towards the mailman, and how humans react to cute, smaller dogs.
Will Ferrell’s voice work as Reggie proves he can be a Christmas elf, a race car professional, a Mattel CEO, a stepbrother, or any character imaginable and remain hilarious! His naive cadence of Reggie matched exactly how you’d think a dog that looked like that sounds. Admit it, you imagine what voice the animals in your life would have too. Jamie Foxx’s Bug was the ideal counterpart for Ferrell and made me want a film where they can play humans and spar comically together again. Isla Fisher’s Maggie and Randall Park’s Hunter got sufficient laughs from me with their characters having a will they/won’t they storyline, but the major thing I found funny is how the film served as a microscope into a dog’s mannerisms with voice work rationalizing the things they do. If you watch dogs, they can have peculiar behaviors, and Strays attempted to take viewers inside what dogs are actually thinking.
Visually, the film is nothing spectacular. Since the main goal for the dogs is to help Reggie get back to Doug’s house, many of the locations are woods and traveling on roads. There is a scene at a carnival that did a good job at playing with sound in how humans and dogs experience the same things. There are also two key scenes that come to mind that will be etched in your brain and immediately bring you back to it whenever you hear Fergie’s “London Bridge” and Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.” In general, the soundtrack is awesome throughout and I found myself tapping my foot along to the many familiar songs in the film.
Strays did have some moments that tugged at my heart. While I’m more partial to cats as mentioned above, I don’t tolerate animal abuse and I don’t like to see it depicted on screen in any way, so seeing Reggie being so mistreated was sad to watch. The ending had a sweet full circle moment though that let viewers know Reggie is going to be just fine despite all the turmoil he experienced in his dog years. This film will leave you laughing, even if it’s just a chuckle, and make you appreciate your furry friends a bit more.
Strays is playing now in theaters.