There’s a reason that dogs are human’s best friend. Though a dog is only a small part in a human’s lifespan, making a tremendous impact regardless, for a dog, we as humans are their entire life – their forever attached to the people who give them a home, feed them, care for them when sick and protect them from danger. Unfortunately, not all human’s treat dogs the same or deserve dogs and the unconditional love they give to their owner’s – the same goes for all domesticated animals and as an animal lover nothing is more infuriating to witness.
Writer Dan Perrault keeps things more on the conservative side when it comes to animal cruelty, putting the perspective from the animals point of view in Strays. Every trailer has already introduced us to the type of owner Doug (Will Forte) is – he’s detached, self-absorbed, irresponsible and unfit to be a dog owner yet Reggie (Will Farrell), a Border Terrier loves him unconditionally, especially all of the fun games they play. Like fetch and f***. You may ask why Reggie continues to bring the ball back to Doug, well it’s simple, It’s all Reggie knows. Since this game is the basis for the story to get going, the joke of it in the context of Perrault’s screenplay doesn’t have the same comedic impact you would expect from an R-rated comedy.
It’s funny the first time but after that, the joke depreciates in value.
Early on we learn why Doug hates Reggie and he never once changes – it’s always the dogs fault in Doug’s eyes with every string of bad luck that comes Doug’s way. Fetch & f*** is the best thing that happens to Reggie. During his first night as a stray, Reggie meets Bug (Jamie Foxx), an overconfident, self-reliable Boston Terrier who takes Reggie under his paw and shows him the way of the Stay dog lifestyle. Bug in his teachings introduces Reggie to Maggie (Isla Fisher), an Australian Shepard and Hunter (Randall Park), a Great Dane therapy dog. Together, the 4 hatch a plan too bite Doug’s private area off, setting out on a journey that will change their lives.
Again, the joke, loses its value from being in every trailer and piece of marketing within the context of the film.
But director Josh Greenbaum and Dan Perrault don’t give away the entire kitchen sink in the marketing – there are plenty of crude and raunchy jokes to be had throughout the 93 minute runtime. Another one of the jokes that made its way into every trailer is the mushroom scene. But Id argue that is the one moment that remains funny every time, from the trailers to the scene and the events that follow. But outside of this one sequence, Strays struggles to find its bark. The tone stays one note, and the jokes never stray off their path – having the same crudeness until the very end.
In a year that has been generous with R-Rated raunchy comedies, the perfect record is no more. Both No Hard Feelings and Joy Ride offered more than their raunchy behaviors with a beating heart to them, and Strays does its best to go deeper but Greenbaum doesn’t give the emotion time to fully adjust within the setting. By the time, Reggie, Bug, Maggie and Hunter embark on their journey back to Doug’s house, the gimmick loses its steam, making the journey a forgettable experience and the destination a welcomed sight when the time comes to it.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of comedic moments not shown in the trailers and the laughs keep Strays interesting as a concept but that’s as far as Strays goes. Perrault wastes a lot of the films potential for cheap and easy sex jokes, recycling some of them over and over again, sometimes to the point of nauseam. There is a deeper message to be had and undervalued themes and it’s a shame there wasn’t enough time to explore those themes to balance Strays out and keep the film from being generic and simple.
Full of A-list talent behind the precious faces, the dogs themselves are the stars of this film. Will Farrell doesn’t quite tap into his streak of early 2000’s raunchy comedies leaving Jamie Foxx to handles most of the comedy burden on his Boston Terrier’s bug faced back. However, Randall Park is an unsung hero as Hunter. Rounding out the core, Isla Fisher keeps the spirits high with her adventurous counterpart. As a collective, the ensemble that also features voices by Rob Riggle, Sofia Vergara, Harvey Guillén, and Brett Gelman all commit to the debauchery, making Strays a worthy but conservative, surface level comedy.
Screenplay By: Dan Perrault
Directed By: Josh Greenbaum
Music By: Dara Taylor
Cinematography: Tim Orr
Starring: Will Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Isla Fisher, Randall Park, Brett Gelman, Will Forte
Edited By: David Rennie, Sabrina Plisco & Greg Hayden
Release Date: August 18, 2023
Running Time: 1 Hour 33 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 54%