2023 has somewhat marked the return of the outrageous comedy. No Hard Feelings kickstarted our potty-mouthed summer, and Josh Greenbaum’s Strays is here to act as the filthy cherry on top, at least in theory.
The film follows adorable little pup Reggie (voiced by Will Ferrell), who is determined to get back to his shitty owner Doug (Will Forte), no matter what, every time he kicks the little mutt out. When Reggie falls in with Bug (a smooth Jamie Foxx), he sees Doug for who he really is; a really terrible dog owner.
Determined to get his revenge by biting Doug’s dick off, Reggie and Bug, along with two more strays (Randall Park and Isla Fisher), head on an epic journey.
Your opinion on Strays will most likely depend on what you think of the first five minutes of it. There are several dick jokes as well as Reggie intruding on Doug’s… alone time, so if that tickles your fancy, Strays is probably the film for you.
And not to worry, Strays has a lot more than just dick jokes going for it. There are also a lot of poo and sex-related jokes to look forward to if you make it past those first five minutes. Unfortunately, most of the gags in the film become tired and repetitive quickly.
On the surface level, Strays wants to be an outrageous, scandalous film that will make 80% of the audience cover their mouths in horror. Walkouts from the cinema are probably encouraged! However, once you get past all the humping and swearing, the film offers very little and quickly succumbs to a very formulaic, traditional narrative.
There is real heart to Strays; Reggie’s revelation that Doug is a terrible owner is where the film is at its most profound, but the balance between the heart and the jokes is ever so slightly off. Admittedly, it’s a difficult line to be toeing and hats off to director Josh Greenbaum for trying, but Strays just doesn’t quite find its tonal groove during its overlong runtime.
The cast are excellent, though, with Jamie Foxx and Randall Park being the standouts. Park gets the film’s best and most simple gag with this cone-headed stray Hunter who has some trouble with howling. Ferrell mostly just blends in with a bland voice performance, and Isla Fisher has very little to work with, but for the eagle-eared viewers, there is a cavalry of excellent comedy actors all committing to their bit parts with passion.
Thankfully, the dogs are cute, at least. The CGI to make their mouths move to the words looks a little too much like an uncanny valley, but a lot can be forgiven just because these pooches are cute. And let’s be honest, a small dog, voiced by Jamie Foxx, being snatched up by an eagle is truly great comedy. It’s just a shame that the film is mostly composed of these great individual gags that never form a cohesive comedy.
I’m sure Strays will find its audience, and it is great to see a big studio comedy take risks like this, even if the end result is less than great. If a harmony of dog dick jokes, vigorous humping and a thoroughly disappointing finale that fails to do the one thing the film promises sounds enticing, Strays is very likely to at least amuse you.
Strays is now in cinemas.