I had assumed with Dan Perrault as the writer and Josh Greenbaum as the director that Strays would hit the poop jokes with more than the humour of a 9-year-old. I was wrong. I’m perplexed how the writer of American Vancal and the director of 2021’s fantastic Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar could produce a film with as low a bar for jokes as Strays.
Will Ferrell doing his best Elf voice again, voices Reggie, a Border Terrier who is abandoned by his terrible and abusive owner Doug. He soon meets up with a Boston Terrier named Bug (Jamie Foxx), an Australian Shepherd named Maggie (Isla Fisher), and a Great Dane named Hunter (Randall Park), who show Reggie the ropes of being a solo and Stray dog. After a night of stealing pizza, getting drunk off the beer from bin-bags and more antics, Reggie decides he wants revenge on Doug and to find his way home to “rip his dick off.” It’s a set-up and sudden aggressive turn from Reggie that makes for a ridiculous and laugh-out-loud moment. However, as is the case for the rest of the film, there are a lot of good ideas here that all fail in execution.
Strays is a road-trip movie with animals in the vein of Homeward Bound but without any of the likable characters or heartwarming moments. What 93 minutes felt like 120 to me as the film dragged from one scene to another, not building upon anything or upping the ante from one scene to another. Usually a redundant description, but Strays is just a film full of poop and sex jokes. The best example of failure to do anything with the concept of “an R-rated Homeward Bound” comes near the end of the film when all the dogs need to break out of an animal shelter, and the best idea Perrault could come up with having the security guy fall over in a pile of dog poop.
This is the first film I’ve watched in 2023 where I have to question how it was written. Did Perrault not write this? Instead, was it produced by some AI machine with the algorithm assuming that THIS is what makes a good adult comedy? The best moments in the film are the begging and the ending, which at least lived up to expectations. But everything in between is just not funny or even entertaining. The most I heard out of anyone in my half-full cinema was a half-chuckle when one of the film’s decent jokes about a red rocket at least felt like it was trying to make me laugh.