The premise of remaking a generic live-action animal family movie as a filthy comedy might sound too cringe or stupid for some, especially given the mixed reception to Sausage Party’s similar attempt at remixing a familiar format, but Strays has more to offer than simply a lewd riff on films like Homeward Bound and Marley & Me.
Directed by Josh Greenbaum (who last helmed the achingly underrated Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar), this feature follows a naive Border Terrier named Reggie, who’s more commonly referred to as Shitbag by his horrible, jobless, pot-addicted owner Doug (Will Forte), who has taken in Reggie as petty revenge towards his kind ex-girlfriend who had enough of his lack of ambition and split up with him.
After playing the most hostile game of fetch with Doug, Reggie is left abandoned in the big city, where he encounters fellow strays Bug (Jamie Foxx), Hunter (Randall Park) and Maggie (Isla Fisher), who each share different circumstances about how they became separated from their owners. They encourage Doug to bask in the freedom of being alone, inviting him to their adventures, which range from regular trips to the amusement park to irregular trips to alternate dimensions via mushrooms.
Without making it sound like there’s enormous depth to this story, the protagonist’s arc is a simple but effective journey of finding a community as a domestic abuse survivor, and embracing being single after leaving a toxic relationship. And it also just happens to be one of the funniest movies of the year, taking common scenarios from broad studio comedies (there’s always a drug-tripping sequence, a bad bowel event etc) and refreshing them through the lens of amusing behaviours and idiosyncrasies of dogs.
Though sometimes the screenplay simply accepts profanity as a joke, there are a lot of laugh-out-loud moments that are carried by the quartet of incredibly funny actors voicing the group of strays, who cover the script’s deficiencies through their energetic delivery. With its strong thematic significance and wildly bawdy humour, Strays is a mutt-see.
Strays is released nationwide on 18th August 2023.
Watch the trailer for Strays here: