There have been plenty of movies centered around talking animals, both live action and animated, though Strays may be the first to use them for R-rated humor. While this initially sounds like a clever idea, unfortunately Strays doesn’t do much with it beyond an endless stream of vulgar and raunchy jokes without an ounce of cleverness. At the very least, at least Strays makes the wise choice to use real dogs in the filming process, saving the audience from enduring more poorly executed CGI animals.
Directed by Josh Greenbaum (Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar), Strays follows a good-natured and optimistic Border Terrier named Reggie (voiced by Will Ferrell). Reggie’s selfish owner (Will Forte) blames the dog for a series of negative life changes, from the departure of his girlfriend and eviction to the destruction of a favorite bong, deciding to abandon his pet in response. After being dropped off in a city far from his home, Reggie meets a foul-mouthed and streetwise Boston Terrier named Bug (Jamie Foxx). Although Reggie initially wants to get back to his owner, Bug opens his eyes to the joys of being a stray and the abuses he was forced to endure.
The friendship between the two dogs develops as they make their way back to Reggie’s home so he can get revenge for the years of abuse and neglect. Along the way they run into plenty of obstacles and meet other animals able to communicate with each other, including Bug’s other canine friends, an Australian Shepherd named Maggie (Isla Fisher) and a therapy Great Dane named Hunter (Randall Park). There is also a lot of vomiting and humping. Far too much, and it quickly stops being funny.
The problem with vulgar humor isn’t the fact that it is gross or offensive; the problem comes when filmmakers think this is enough. Without even a modicum of cleverness behind the toilet humor, Strays is the one that ends up being a giant turd. Even the likes of Ferrell can’t really save this from being an unfunny mess without direction. Humor is subjective, but I can’t imagine anyone past puberty finding Strays funny.
The Blu-ray release of Strays comes with three ways to watch the film: the high-definition disc, a DVD copy, and a digital code to stream the film. This “Unleashed Edition” also comes with a handful of special features. There is also a making-of featurette called “The Ultimate Treat,” and a commentary track with director/producer Josh Greenbaum and screenwriter/producer Dan Perrault.
“Talk Like a Dog” is a featurette about the cast of voice actors who played each of the canine characters. The difficulties shooting with the non-human cast is also covered in both “Poop, Booms, and Shrooms” and “Training to be Stray.” Another featurette has the cast discussing Will Forte, who also provides interviews to discuss what it was like playing an unlikeable loser, and the last one is about Greenbaum’s decision to adopt one of the dogs from the film.
Entertainment Value: 6/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 5/10
Historical Significance: 3/10
Special Features: 7/10