STRAYS, directed by Josh Greenbaum

Strays is an Average Adult Comedy Mixed with an Average Dog Movie, and That’s Ok

There’ve been a lot of dog movies– a sad one about a Labrador retriever, a scary one with a St Bernard, a trilogy of Beverly Hills chihuahuas, and endless animated ones – but Strays is the first adult comedy with dogs. Think something like Madagascar with a lot more humping and swearing. But, if you’re the type who likes dog movies and Frat Pack comedies, this rare breed might be your next pick of the litter. 

This shaggy dog story is more or less Bolt or Homeward Bound but with a cheeky twist. A scruffy terrier named Reggie (Will Ferrell) is driven out to the city and abandoned in an alley by his slimeball owner Doug (Will Forte). Reggie then teams up with an oddball pack of dogs (played by Jamie Foxx, Isla Fisher and Randall Park) and they roadtrip Reggie back to Doug. Along the way, they steal food, get drunk, eat mysterious mushrooms, evade capture, and learn a little something about themselves. But why do they want to get Reggie back to that dirtbag Doug? To take away his favorite toy, or to put it another way: to bite off his penis. 

There are a lot of good jokes in Strays, a lot of gross ones, and a lot of stupid ones. There’s a dorky narrator dog like in A Dog’s Purpose and Marley & Me, a scene where the pack makes a dog catcher slip-slop-slap shit, and three squirrels hump on a branch while Reggie falls from a tree. It gets a good range of jokes in, but it’s not just jokes nonstop – there is a little bit of commentary on how you should treat your dog, and why they act out– it’s never preachy or self-serious either, so it manages to be well-balanced. For the most part Strays lets the jokes do the heavy lifting, and they do.

That’s not to say that Strays is a stand-out performance or a real gutbuster, but just by being a ‘funny movie with dogs’ puts it a bit higher in the pack. And they’ve managed some impressive work with their dog actors. Sure, some scenes are obviously fake – there’s no chance they taught a bald eagle to carry off a Boston terrier – but others aren’t so clear, and you’ll often wonder whether a dog really did that. And of course, a lot of it is really just dogs digging holes and running around (which is pretty cute). They’ve also got the magically-moving dog mouths down to a fine art, so it’s surprising how invested you can get in this ragtag road trip.

Strays’ combo of cute dogs doing silly things and saying naughty words works pretty well. It ain’t barking good, but if the odd joke doesn’t land, you can still enjoy those puppy dog eyes. And when a joke does land, hearing it from the mouth of a cute dog makes it even better. So, by mixing an average adult comedy with an average dog movie, they’ve bred a nice surprise. 

Director: Josh Greenbaum

Cast: Will Ferrell, Jamie Foxx, Isla Fisher

Writer: Dan Perrault

Branden Zavaleta

Branden Zavaleta is a Perth-based film critic. He loves movies that charm, surprise or share secrets. Some little known favourites of his are Ishii's The Taste of Tea, Barboni's They Call Me Trinity, and Kieslowski's Camera Buff.

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