Reviewed by: Mike Klamecki
This is the first live action movie with talking animals to receive an R-rating (very “R”); all previous talking animal films were rated G, PG and PG-13.
Using cute-looking dogs to deliver heavy swearing, vulgar language, profanity and heavily crude adult sexual humor
Dogs seeking revenge
Dogs in the Bible
Will Ferrell … Reggie (voice)
Jamie Foxx … Bug (voice)
Will Forte … Doug
Sofía Vergara (Sofia Vergara) … Deliliah the Couch (voice)
Isla Fisher … Maggie (voice) — Australian Shepherd
Josh Gad … Gus (Labrador Retriever)
Randall Park … Hunter (voice) — a therapy Great Dane
Harvey Guillén (Harvey Guillen) … Shitstain — a Chihuahua
Jamie Demetriou … Chester — a bulldog
Rob Riggle … Rolf — a German Shepherd
Brett Gelman … Willy — a cruel Animal Control officer
Dennis Quaid … Dennis Quaid (cameo appearance only)
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Universal Animation Studios
Gloria Sanchez Productions
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I predict that there will be quite a few awkward theater experiences in the opening weekend of “Strays” as uninformed parents (definitely ones that don’t read this website’s reviews) take their children to what looks like a cute CG-animated doggie movie. As soon as the 60 second mark hits, these poor parents will realize that they probably should have done some research when as many as ten F-bombs hit the screen in record time. Those parents may want to consider going down to another screen to watch “Blue Beetle” or “Haunted Mansion” which are both PG-13. That would definitely be a safer bet than this hard-R raunchy romp featuring a group of four dogs as they live the hard life of being strays.
The plot is a combination of Disney’s “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey” and the recent and extremely racey “Joy Ride”; both road movies with friends but only one that would make you squirm in your seat. The heart of the movie is a Border Terrier named Reggie (voiced by Will Ferrell in the same innocent/enthusiastic tone he did for “Elf”) who is unknowingly in an abusive relationship with his unemployed, bong-hitting, loser owner Doug (Will Forte).
Doug tries his best to ignore, abuse, and lose Reggie until one day Reggie can’t find his way back after Doug abandons him far from home (in reality a good thing, but Reggie is loyal to a fault). While he wanders around dangerously lost, Reggie runs into a foul-mouthed, street-wise Boston Terrier named Bug (voiced by Jamie Foxx) who shows him the ropes and joys of being a stray.
Something somewhat creative about the writing of the film is how it immerses the audience in “dog logic” mostly told from Bug’s POV: pee on an item and it’s yours, there is always free food if you know where to look, lawn sprinklers make great showers, etc. Oh yes, and there are other dog logic items mostly involving being amorous with anything you see. You get the picture.
Reggie meets Bug’s other friends at the local dog park—a Great Dane and canine unit dropout turned hospice therapy dog Hunter (Randall Park) and Australian Shepherd slash Insta model Maggie (Isla Fisher).
From there Reggie slowly learns what real love and care is about from his new friends and realizes his owner Doug was the exact opposite. Reggie then plots to take his revenge in a most… ahem… unconventional and painful way as far as Doug is concerned and just like that, “Strays” turns into a revenge flick.
As they journey to find the bad man, the band of friends run into all sorts of assorted situations involving kidnapping hawks, magic mushrooms, the inside of a prison (dog pound), and other detours along the way. Oh, but add a cuss word, genital reference, poop close-up, or sexual situation every five seconds (seriously, every… five… seconds) and you have the gist of this movie.
The voice acting from Will Ferrell is the emotional resonance of “Strays” and thank goodness for that because it is the only thing buoying you in a sea of filth and really inappropriate, extreme sexual animal references and gags. I’m sure someone loves this kind of humor. It takes all kinds. But this takes the “raunchy comedy” genre and pushes it up to 11.
Some of the jokes land and are funny, due to the timing and emotion of the voice actors. You even get some flashes of genuine heart and emotion from Reggie’s plight of just wanting to be a “good boy,” but it’s kinda like finding a few sweet Skittles in a rotting trash heap. It’s just not enough to justify engaging in the whole mess.
As for a spiritual aside, Reggie mentions that he is looking for his purpose in life now that Doug has abandoned him. Bug tells him his purpose is wrapped up in being a stray, because all he needs is to be happy (which living like a stray will lead to). However, Reggie knows he has a deeper sense of purpose that comes from a desire to please his master.
Thank God we as believers have a Master that is loving, kind, generous, giving, righteous, and fair. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is man’s primary purpose?” The answer is, “Man’s primary purpose is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
The next question is “What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him?” The answer is “The Word of God.” All believers are all created in Christ Jesus to do good works that God has planned in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), and we all have amazing purpose. Sometimes we “stray” a bit and wander to seek what really matters, but we will always find out our true purpose in God Himself and His ways.
So my advice is to please stray away from “Strays” and seek some better entertainment. Or better yet, buy a special treat for your own dog or cat or whatever you have with the money you save not buying a ticket. They will appreciate the loving effort and you will appreciate saving yourself from the raunchy verbal assault of this movie.
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