Starring: Voices of: Will Ferrell, Jamie Foxx, Isla Fisher, Randall Park, Brett Gelman, Rob Riggle, Josh Gad, Sofia Vergara, Will Forte, Denis Quaid
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Runtime: 93 mins. Reviewed in Aug 2023
Reviewer: Fr Peter Malone msc
Pet Reggie, abandoned by his slob owner, finds allies with other dogs as he makes his way back home to confront his owner.
With a comedy like Strays, words that come to the reviewer’s mind include: raunchy, crude, crass, gross, offensive. And it can be said, they are all applicable. But the response depends on sensibilities – whether this kind of crude comedy appeals or not. The reviewer had to keep in mind that everyone’s sensibilities are different.
While often it seems much like a cartoon in characters and situations, this is a live-action film about dogs. In fact, dog lovers, despite the jokes, might very well be intrigued by the extraordinary performances of the dogs themselves, and wonder how much is the training of actual dogs and how much is the use of animatronics, especially with the syncing of the dog’s mouths to the dialogue. Yes, the dogs really come alive, and are convincing characters.
And a review had better note that the humour, pervasive, relies on constant (incessant) four (and beyond)-letter words and exclamations, probably tiresome even for tolerant viewers, magic mushroom hallucinations, a lot of sex jokes, explicit and implicit, and bodily parts and bodily functions. Definitely crude, often crass.
But, strangely enough, the story is full of sentiment, even sentimental at times, and moving towards a nice ending of domestic bliss. In a way, the audience can’t help liking the dogs. And, who are they? First, there is Reggie (voiced by Ferrell), who was at the beck and call of Doug (Forte, creating a character who is an extreme slob), who resents Reggie because he was the pet of a girlfriend who walks out on him. He persecutes Reggie, verbally abuses him, tosses the ball as far away as possible – but the good-natured Reggie thinks this is all a game and thinks Doug is a wonderful owner. When Doug takes Reggie on a three-hour drive and strands him, he is befriended by a smart-talking Bug (voiced by Foxx). Gradually, with the help of Bug’s other friends, Maggie (Fisher as an Australian collie) and Hunter (Park) as a former police dog trainee, now with a cone and working at an old folks home, Reggie learns the truth. And the film becomes a quest – a revenge film, with Reggie wreaking havoc on Doug
There are lots of adventures along the way, meeting police dogs looking for a young girl, the real Dennis Quaid with binoculars seeing a giant eagle swoop on Bug, getting lost, finding landmarks, and an eventual confrontation between Reggie and Doug (and what we might have imagined does happen).
Lots of jokes, many crass, others funny, and, as has been said, quite a deal of sentiment. The talent of the voice cast blending with the expert photography and training of the dogs, their looking to camera, the tilt of their heads, the cheeky looks, which means that the dogs really become credible characters! But, as the government classification advice says: MA: Strong crude humour, sex, coarse language and drug use.
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