'Strays' Is a Doggone Delight

Directed by Josh Greenbaum

Starring Will Ferrell, Jamie Foxx, Isla Fisher, Randall Park, Brett Gelman, Will Forte, Josh Gad, Harvey Guillen, Rob Riggle, Jamie Demetriou, Sofia Vergara

Photo: Chuck Zlotnick / Universal Pictures

BY Rachel HoPublished Aug 18, 2023

The premise of Strays is simple: a dog, Reggie (Will Ferrell), has been mistreated by his owner, Doug (Will Forte), and, in an act of revenge, Reggie plans to bite Doug's dick off. 

Suffice to say, Strays is an R-rated comedy that amusingly has the appearance of family-friendly fare from the '90s, like Homeward Bound or Babe, where animals talk to one another. Adding to this children's movie appearance is the fact that Reggie and his crew are all adorable looking pups. 

When Reggie finds himself in the city, the Border Terrier meets Bug (Jamie Foxx), a street-wise Boston Terrier who introduces Reggie to his crew, an Australian Shepard named Maggie (Isla Fisher) and a Great Dane named Hunter (Randall Park). With their help, Reggie begins to understand that Doug's behaviour is basically abuse and that, in fact, the game of fetch Reggie thought they were playing was actually Doug trying to abandon him. Throughout Strays, the four dogs make their way to Doug's house, retracing Reggie's steps with humorous obstacles in their way.

For a film that resoundingly earns its R rating, there is a surprising amount of sweetness and sentimentality. Additionally, although played for laughs in many ways, Doug's mistreatment of Reggie begins to poke at something quite serious that is addressed in a respectful way. 

That being said, the bulk of Strays is an outlandishly raunchy buddy canine comedy. The four leads have great chemistry together, each being given moments to shine on multiple occasions. There seems to be a new trend in the world of voice acting where filmmakers are determined to get all of their talent together to record in the same room. It worked really well in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, and likewise in Strays, the veteran talents of Ferrell, Foxx, Fisher and Park come together seamlessly.

Dan Perrault's script leans into the campier side of comedy at times, and not every gag or joke is particularly sophisticated or even clever — but, for a movie like this, it really doesn't matter. The crude jokes are spot-on, and all the gags in relation to seeing the world from a dog's point of view are endearing.

The script is elevated by excellent animation. Strays is a live-action movie, and the production used real dogs for filming while animating their mouths to talk. Because the animation part isn't too goofy, it's very easy to forget that the film is about four talking dogs and settling into their dog world is easy.

I didn't expect to come out of Strays thinking what a sweet movie about friendship it was, but here we are. Strays was everything I expected, but also nothing at all what I thought it would be. With four great comedic performances leading the way, Strays is a quiet summer hit — just leave the kids at home for this one.
(Universal Pictures)

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