Review: Strays

Score: B

Director: Josh Greenbaum

Cast: Will Ferrell, Jamie Foxx, Randall Park, Isla Fisher

Running Time: 93 Minutes

Rated: R

Making Strays work had to have been hard. I'm not talking about wrangling all those dogs or the VFX work to make it look like their mouths are moving. No, it's a real challenge to take something intended for children but then tweak all the jokes for immature adults. Sausage Party pulled it off, The Happytime Murders did not. Strays may not have any lofty aims or deep reservoir of heart. But by god, I laughed harder and more frequently than just about any movie this year.

Will Ferrell voices Reggie, a border terrier frequently abused and neglected by Doug (Will Forte). This total loser ditches poor Reggie on the streets of Atlanta. Like Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey or any other number of lost animal movies, this determined pup will make his way back. Along the way, he'll meet friends, enemies and learn about himself. His guide in this world is Bug (Jamie Foxx), a Boston terrier whose tough exterior hides a lot of confusion, hurt and love. They pick up a Great Dane (Randall Park) and Australian shepherd (Isla Fisher), and the misfit quartet heads out to help Reggie seek revenge.

The film succeeds in the way a lot of my favorite comedies do: by having a wide variety of types of jokes, and letting any person (or canine) have the funniest line depending on the scene. While the film is chock-full of gross-out scenes, there are plenty of more high-brow bits too. These include a great gag about dogs failing to grasp knock-knock jokes and meta gags mocking inspirational dog movies like A Dog's Purpose and The Art of Racing in the Rain. The film also throws in some extended metaphors about toxic relationships and impostor syndrome. They may not work for you, but they provide something resembling substance to an otherwise ridiculous movie.

Strays could have been ruff. Fortunately, it's got just enough bite.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.