Plot: What’s it about?
Reminiscent of foul language flicks from the 90’s, Strays attempts to fill that void. This is a talking dog movie that fully takes advantage of the R-rating it bears. Unfortunately, we’re left with a flick that wears out its welcome long before it’s over, and one that forgot to add even a touch of wit to the proceedings. The cast is certainly game, but they can’t salvage this mess of a film and the script which too often settles for toilet humor that is more gross than funny.
Reggie (voiced by Will Ferrell) is a young dog with an overly abusive owner. Will Forte plays Doug. He keeps Reggie after his relationship goes south but tries effortlessly to get rid of him. This includes playing a game of fetch only to leave Reggie stranded. The trouble is, Reggie continues to find his way back home. He thinks it’s all a game. Once Reggie is finally abandoned, he must get accustomed to life on the streets. This is when he meets Bug (voiced by Jamie Foxx) who shows Reggie all about life as a now homeless dog. Along the way, they meet two other dogs in Maggie (Isla Fisher) and Hunter (Randall Park). They have some fun wandering around, humping things, catching food that has fallen on the ground and all kinds of fun stuff. They get to know each other, and Reggie speaks of his former owner. They alert him that he is in fact now a stray. It is around this time that Reggie has one goal. That is to find Doug and bite off his genitals. You will get no spoilers from me, but the dog sure is committed to this task. And why not? To say Doug is a worthless human would be a serious understatement. Will Forte is funny and likeable, but here, he has next to no redeeming qualities. And that is what we’re left with. The simplest of plots surrounded by endless crude gags that fail to elicit much laughter.
I won’t say I didn’t laugh any during Strays. Indeed, it has its share of amusing moments, but the problem is it revels in simply being crude and nasty. There are the share of F-bombs as well as the lowest of all brands of humor. After a point, this can’t be funny if it disgusts me. Too often, the film settles on what seems like the easiest gags without the wit or creativity behind them. There’s a prison stint that does have some laughs, but so many moments reach the point of exhaustion because the film lingers on them for far too long. For a film that clocks in around the 90-minute mark, this thing feels a lot longer than that. Not to mention that a lot of the gags here feel cruel, especially to dog lovers. I understand that Doug must be painted as a terrible person, but the film can go a little too far in that regard as well. It ventures into the point of mean spiritedness sometimes. Strays is a dog you can safely put down. For those who do see it, there is a scene midway through the credits that follows up on the fate of a character.
Video: How’s it look?
Strays might lack on plot (or tact), but that’s not to say that Universal’s disc doesn’t look the part. The 1.85:1 AVC HD encode is certainly indicative of a new-to-the-format Blu-ray. As we might expect, colors pop, detail is tack sharp and black levels are strong and consistent. Granted, most movies don’t feature canines as the main “stars”, but this is no ordinary film. I guess the “flesh tones” will have to take a backseat this time, eh? All kidding aside, I was hard-pressed to find something, anything wrong with this but wasn’t able. In a word – it’s perfect.
Audio: How’s it sound?
While not on par with the video, the DTS HD Master Audio mix has a few moments in which it really gets to shine (emphasis on the “few moments”). Vocals, or at least the vocals that are supposed to come out of the dogs’ mouths, are clear and crisp. Surrounds are used sparingly, but do come into play during a few scenes. By and large it’s a pretty lackluster mix, no fault of the audio track – this is the kind of movie that doesn’t really need robust audio to make things work. It’s good, though nothing too memorable.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio commentary – Director/Producer Josh Greenbaum and Screenwriter/Producer Dan Perrault make for a fairly interesting track. The usual topics are discussed ranging from the animals involved to the voice talent and everything in between.
- Talk Like a Dog – Meet the humans behind the dogs as Will Ferrell, Jamie Foxx, Isla Fisher, and Randall Park discuss how they got into the canine mindset to voice their roles.
- The Ultimate Treat: Making Strays – Go on a journey with filmmakers and cast and share in their joy at bringing this unique film to the big screen.
- Poop, Booms, and Shrooms – You’d be surprised how challenging it is filming big scenes with non-human actors. In this piece we take a look at how the filmmaking team executed some of the film’s most memorable sequences.
- Will Forte: Stray Actor – Sit down with Will Forte and learn what it’s like playing someone we all hate. Filmmakers and his cast mates join in to reveal why Will was the best man for the job.
- Training to be Stray – Sit, stay, pee, hump? Take a look at the creative methods used by trainers to get the canines to perform.
- A New Best Friend – The bond between human and dog is undeniable. So much so that director Josh Greenbaum couldn’t resist bringing a stray from set home with him.
The Bottom Line
Gross and mostly unfunny, Strays settles for the lowest common denominator of humor. It feels like an endless journey of gags involving feces and gnawing on private parts, among other things. I didn’t laugh a lot because I was mostly just grossed out. Skip it.