STRAYS Review: This Dog Will Hunt. An Incredibly Filthy Journey With Will Ferrell and Jamie Foxx.
Josh Greenbaum’s Strays is a raunchy, ridiculous comedy about a little dog who’ll do anything to get back to his owner, though not for the reasons one might think. The director returns after the hilarious, huge-hearted Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar with a film that is similarly unafraid to go broad, but this time it’s a filthy hard R extravaganza that features more dogs humping inanimate objects than I was ready for.
Reggie (Will Ferrell) is our tiny, brown, almost impossibly cute hero. After an opening that clearly establishes what an asshole his owner Doug (Will Forte) is, Reggie finds himself far from home, having been ditched in a dirty alley, miles from the life he knows. At first oblivious to the fact that he’s been intentionally abandoned by his owner, upon meeting up with a city stray named Bug (Jamie Foxx), Reg realizes that it was no accident. He was eager to get back to his loving home before, but now he’s even more determined to find Doug, but this time it’s for sweet, bloody revenge.
Along for the ride are Hunter (Randall Park) the Great Dane, a shy therapy dog, and Maggie (Isla Fisher), a chipper Collie with a nose for adventure. The four of them set off on the long, arduous trek back to Doug’s house to make him pay for the way he treated Reggie, but they’ll be beset by obstacles all along the way. Some of these speed bumps will be treacherous, but most will just be hysterical, as we get some insight into the psychology of these dirty dogs and the things they’ll fuck.
While there are some messages about acceptance, self-reliance, confidence, and some other such hopeful nonsense, Strays is really just a mile-a-minute gag fest. The jokes come fast, and they come hard, and as a person who was in kind of a sour mood when he walked into the theater, Strays really hit the spot. There is never not a joke in progress, and often several jokes are layered on top of each other, with laughs frequently overlapping, building to incredibly well-crafted crescendos.
A dark, perverse take on Walt Disney’s classic children’s tale The Incredible Journey, Strays lives near the comedic intersection of Sausage Party and Elf, with Ferrell delivering a performance that is on par with the guileless Buddy the Elf as Reg the forsaken fluffball trekking towards his home. The whole cast is uniformly good, the streetwise Bug, Hunter, and Maggie guiding Reg through the wilderness presents constant amusement, and when these wanderers encounter new friends and enemies along the way, shenanigans ensue, and there’s me cackling like a damned hyena.
Something happens to me in certain comedies, the least pretentious ones, that I cannot control. I love a good laugh, the dumber the better, give me a solid sight gag, give me a guy getting kicked in the balls, give me a pile of poo that someone steps in (or worse), and I am a happy man. I will howl with laughter, I will clap on instinct at a good joke, and God help me, Strays took me there. Strays is easily among the most outrageous Hollywood comedies of the year – in a year pretty packed with solid mainstream comedies – and it’s definitely a film I plan to revisit any time I need a smile. If Barb and Star was your bag, but you have a yen for something much dirtier, Strays has your number. It certainly has mine.