Movie Review: ‘Strays’ is furry, foul, filthy, feculent — and occasionally funny

by Andrew Wright
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canine cognition

Film Analysis: ‘Strays’ Offers a Unique Perspective on Canine Curiosity and Loyalty

Greetings to all fellow dog enthusiasts! Have you ever pondered what thoughts might be racing through the mind of your beloved four-legged companion? Undoubtedly, you have. If only our furry friends could communicate their musings to us, the insights would be fascinating, wouldn’t they?

Enter “Strays,” a daringly irreverent, gleefully audacious, and intermittently uproarious comedy, impeccably voiced by the talented duo of Will Ferrell and Jamie Foxx. This cinematic endeavor ventures into the realm of dog cognition, revealing a curiously engaging narrative. Evidently, our canine companions are profoundly inquisitive about the peculiar human practice of collecting their excrement in minuscule plastic receptacles. Their contemplation delves into the presumed significance of this activity, leaving us to ponder the underlying purpose. Yet, why is there a continual demand for more of this mysterious collection?

Elaborating on the subject further might be somewhat unsettling due to the inherently coarse nature of the discourse. The film encompasses a plethora of unrefined elements, ranging from moderate to extensive, throughout its 93-minute duration. This span of time is marked by an abundance of scatological and phallic humor, both in reference to canines and humans. The visual depictions may linger in the viewer’s memory longer than anticipated.

Directed by Josh Greenbaum and penned by Dan Perrault, “Strays” commences with its central figure, Reggie, a spirited border terrier with an unabatingly optimistic disposition. He proclaims that each day is the “best day ever,” setting the tone for his exhilarating perspective on life. A semblance to a familiar line from another context is noteworthy—namely, the notion espoused by “Barbie.” However, any semblance is confined to this superficial parallel.

Reggie, voiced by Ferrell with unyielding innocence reminiscent of a puppy, holds unwavering affection for his owner, Doug. Tragically, Doug’s sentiments don’t reciprocate Reggie’s devotion. Notably, genuine dogs portray the four principal canine roles, a commendation due to their dedicated trainers, while human actors assume supporting positions, with one celebrity cameo and Will Forte’s portrayal as an exceedingly disagreeable dog owner.

Forte’s character, Doug, directs his disdain primarily towards Reggie, who inadvertently exposes evidence of Doug’s infidelity by unearthing incriminating material. This discovery precipitates his girlfriend’s departure. Holding onto her dog as an act of spite, Doug subjects Reggie to neglect and emotional maltreatment. The duo’s interactions predominantly involve a profanely titled “game” where Reggie is taken for a ride, a tennis ball thrown, and Doug then departs, presumably hoping Reggie won’t return—although he unfailingly does.

An unforeseen turn of events propels Reggie into unfamiliar territory, far from home, leaving him disoriented and abandoned. Within this gritty urban milieu, he encounters a group of “strays” led by Bug, voiced by Foxx. Though not strictly stray by nature, these characters linger in the streets for diverse reasons. Among them, the alluring Australian Shepherd Maggie, portrayed by Isla Fisher, and Hunter, a Great Dane grappling with anxiety, played by Randall Park.

Reggie is welcomed into this unconventional community, introduced to the life of a stray that thrives on unbounded adventures. An essential tenet is swiftly conveyed: To assert ownership, one must mark territory with urine. Additional guidelines are too risqué for elucidation.

Gradually, Reggie’s newfound companions unveil the harsh reality of his abandonment. The revelation is poignant, prompting contemplation on communication with Doug. Hunter, with his identity as a therapy dog, contemplates an intervention. The narrative rapidly pivots as the makeshift family embarks on a mission. Reggie, enlightened about Doug’s duplicity, is resolute in his quest to return home and enact a symbolic retribution. The subsequent escapade entails a series of events, including Reggie and Bug’s surreal ascent via a computer-animated eagle, a psychedelic foray into nature, and a confrontation with a dog-catcher. The pound becomes a pivotal setting where Reggie inspires his fellow captives to rally for liberation, encapsulated in the evocative phrase: “Let’s all poop to freedom!”

The ensuing sequence, while undoubtedly one of the film’s more provocative moments, pales in comparison to the intense and tonally incongruous climax. This segment involves four dogs, a human, a baseball bat, and the resonating tune of Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball.” This climactic episode elicits potent emotions and could necessitate a brief avoidance of the song.

The narrative imparts a poignant moral to canine spectators: Family holds unparalleled significance, often found in unexpected places. Reggie’s unflinching loyalty to Doug is underscored, yet the film acknowledges that devotion should not be unconditional, for humans are capable of cruelty. Furthermore, a cautionary note is sounded concerning psychedelic mushrooms. And, the perplexing conundrum of plastic waste remains unresolved.

“Strays,” distributed by Universal Studios, has garnered an R rating from the Motion Picture Association due to its abundant usage of coarse language, explicit content, and depictions of substance use. Clocking in at 93 minutes, the film achieves a rating of two stars out of four.

In conclusion, “Strays” presents an unconventional and candid exploration of canine introspection and devotion. The movie traverses a realm that is equal parts amusing and unsettling, with its candid portrayal of doggy contemplations and the human-dog dynamic. While the film is characterized by its brazen and, at times, explicit humor, it imparts thought-provoking insights into loyalty, abandonment, and the quest for belonging.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about canine cognition

What is the central theme of the film “Strays”?

“Strays” delves into the realm of canine cognition and loyalty, offering a unique perspective on the intricate bond between humans and their furry companions.

Who are the main characters in the film?

The film revolves around Reggie, a border terrier, and his interactions with a group of street-smart “strays” led by Bug (voiced by Jamie Foxx).

Is the film primarily a comedy?

Yes, “Strays” is categorized as a comedy, characterized by its irreverent and audacious humor, often juxtaposed with introspective moments.

What is the rating of the film and why?

The film has received an R rating from the Motion Picture Association due to its frequent use of coarse language, explicit content, and depictions of substance use.

How does the film address the concept of loyalty?

The film presents Reggie’s unwavering loyalty to his owner, Doug, even in the face of neglect and mistreatment. It also explores the idea that loyalty should not be unconditional, considering human capacity for cruelty.

What emotions does the film evoke in its viewers?

“Strays” blends humor and contemplation, eliciting a range of emotions from amusement to introspection, and at times, even discomfort due to its explicit content.

How does the film portray the relationship between dogs and humans?

The film showcases the nuanced dynamics between dogs and humans, shedding light on the unbreakable bond as well as the potential for abandonment and mistreatment.

What lessons can be drawn from the film?

The film imparts lessons about the importance of family and belonging, the complexities of loyalty, and the unpredictability of finding connections in unexpected places.

Are there any standout performances or elements in the film?

Will Ferrell’s portrayal of Reggie and Jamie Foxx’s voicing of Bug stand out, along with the film’s blend of audacious humor and moments of poignancy.

How does the film balance humor and introspection?

“Strays” employs a mix of scatological humor and thought-provoking scenarios, creating a balance between irreverence and insightful exploration of loyalty and abandonment.

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