Oct 13, 2023
Strays is a sweet, hysterical, raunchy comedy featuring potty-mouthed dogs in one of the best animal movies ever made.
Rating: 4 out 5 foul-mouthed Boston Terriers
Strays is probably one of the best animal movies ever made. Yes, yes, I hear you all screaming at me about Milo & Otis and Black Beauty and all the others, but did any of them feature foul-mouthed dogs with a flair for the obscene and nasty, kind of like that one Jimmy Buffet song that makes most “squares” uncomfortable (i.e., “Why Don’t We Get Drunk”)? Nope? I didn’t think so, and that’s precisely why you’re gonna want to watch Strays!
Directed by Josh Greenbaum (Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar), Strays features a whopping all-star cast that includes Will Ferrell (Anchorman), Randall Park (Totally Killer), Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers), Jamie Foxx (Ray), Josh Gad (Ghostbusters: Afterlife), Harvey Guillén (What We Do in the Shadows), Rob Riggle (21 Jump Street), Brett Gelman (Stranger Things), Jimmy Tatro (American Vandal), Dennis Quaid (The Day After Tomorrow), Phil Morris (Doom Patrol), Jamie Demetriou (Barbie), Sofía Vergara (Modern Family), and Greta Lee (Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse). Strays is lovingly brought to us by “the humans” who gave us 21 Jump Street (2012) and Cocaine Bear (2023), so right off the bat, you know this flick is gonna be hella funny. And it is.
Nevermind those critics who’ve said that Strays, “wants to startle us with its tonal shifts … but its wild careening from sentimental to super scuzzy makes it seem like the moviemakers lost track of what they were trying to do.”
To them I say: LIGHTEN UP, FRANCES. You knew it was a raunchy comedy going into it. No one expected Strays to be an Oscar contender, but we all like a good time, and Strays is absolutely that. (Warning: Video below features foul language!)
The R-rated comedy follows the life of Reggie (Ferrell), a super sweet but extremely naïve and gullible Border Terrier who’s more of a glass-half-full personality. It’s a great role for Ferrell, allowing him to return to the nature of his character in Elf.
Reggie lives with his owner, Doug (Will Forte, of Macgruber), who’s a complete and total dick as far as pet owners go and a total loser as far as grownups go. Doug has no job, no money, no life, and no girlfriend, and he spends his days being a slob, smoking pot, guzzling beer, and living off his struggling mother’s social security checks.
Reggie loves Doug and thinks he’s a great pet owner who likes to play Reggie’s favorite game: “Fetch & F**k.” This is where Doug drives somewhere and throws a tennis ball then leaves while Reggie searches, hoping Reggie won’t find his way home. When he does show up with the tennis ball in his mouth, Doug’s response is always, “F**k.” So, one day after Reggie accidentally breaks Doug’s favorite bong, Doug drives Reggie four hours away to a big city, backs up to an alley, then throws the tennis ball for Reggie to chase. When Reggie runs after it, Doug leaves.
It really is, right up until the moment Reggie meets Bug (Foxx), a once-owned-but-now-stray Boston Terrier with street smarts, a sharp tongue, lots of love, and a giant, tough-talkin’ personality. And as a recent Boston Terrier mama, I can say this personality is quite accurate. When Reggie tells Bug how he wound up in the alley, Bug tells Reggie his owner left him on purpose and he’s now a stray, then befriends him and decides to help him adjust.
As Bug walks Reggie through the city, he tells Reggie there are three rules to being a stray:
(1) If you want it, pee on it.
(2) You can hump whatever you want.
(3) You’re on your own: “You’re a stray now! You can do anything you want!”
Bug also takes the time to point out how weird and mean humans can be. Bug notes that while they’re awesome because they drop food all the time, they’re also evil because they collect dog poop and snip the balls off of male dogs. Bug says humans love "this thing called chocolate,” and he’s convinced the reason chocolate is so good to humans is because the secret ingredients are dog poop and dog balls.
So, along the way, Bug and Reggie hit the park, where Reggie befriends other animal companions: Maggie (Fisher), a person-owned Australian Shepherd who doubles as a scent queen, and Hunter (Park), a Great Dane (i.e., “the muscle”) who is a former police dog turned therapy dog, who always wears a cone—not for a medical reason but because it makes him feel safe. Hilarious, right? I know.
When Reggie introduces himself to the pack, he says his name is, “Shitbag, or sometimes Dumbass Shitbag … or F**k Nugget.” When Maggie asks if that’s what his owner calls him and Reggie says yes, she, Hunter, and Bug kindly point out that those aren’t terms of endearment and that Doug sucks.
As Reggie’s shiny, innocent reality shatters right before his sweet little eyes, his sadness turns to anger as, with the group's encouragement, he declares he’s going to find his way back home and take away Doug’s favorite toy: “I’m gonna bite his dick off." So, together the four embark on a long journey to get Reggie home, whereupon they encounter vicious predators, animal control officers, the wrath of God, and even some mind-altering mushrooms.
There’s a lot about Strays that make it a must-own movie. In addition to its script and cast, Strays features an outstanding soundtrack full of N.W.A., Ludacris, Doja Cat, Olivia Rodrigo, Tony K, Travis Scott, Reem, Billie Eilish, The Weeknd (with Playboi Carti and Madonna), Post Malone, and more. And guys, these songs are paired with the perfect accompanying scenes, most of which are shot in super creative slow motion with epic comedic undertones. Sometimes overtones.
Strays is packed levity throughout the cruelty driving the story, such as the festival scene. Reggie tells the group he remembers passing “a big wheel in the sky and it smelled like hot dogs.” Maggie goes to work and picks up a scent, leading the gang right to the county fair. As the strays make their way through the crowd of humans, Reggie steals a link of hot dogs. When the others find out he stole from a human, they panic, but Reggie tells them to relax, “No one saw.” At that very moment, fireworks erupt and Hunter shouts, “GOD SAW!” as they all freak out and run, thinking God is trying to bomb them for stealing hot dogs from a human.
That scene, ladies and gents, is side-splitting hysterical. It’s so good, you’ll back it up and watch it again. Likewise, in another great moment, as the dogs stop to howl, it turns out that all can howl except for Hunter, who literally howls by saying the word “howww-ling.” It’s quite adorable. As a former Great Dane owner, I can attest that what they do sounds more like a “roooo” than a howl.
Then there’s the scene where the dogs come upon a sea of mushrooms and think they’re food, so they eat as many as they can … and proceed to trip their balls off. It makes for one psychedelic good time, as the strays hallucinate a gaggle of toys they then proceed to tear up. When they awaken the next morning and realize the toys were actual rabbits, they feel like serial killers and leave the forest in shame.
There’s even a story within this story that focuses on a little girl gone missing, whom the strays actually come across and rescue. It’s very, very sweet. And, I’ll go ahead and spoil it for you because it’s no big surprise, but Reggie does make it home to Doug and bite his dick off in an epic scene of vengeance that plays out to Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball.”
Overall, Strays is absolutely one of the best animal movies ever made, for adults only. It’s a beautiful story of awareness, friendship, family, and brotherhood—er, doghood—as well as courage and strength. The writing is funny and clever, remaining sweet with endearing moments, and all dogs featured in Strays were absolutely amazing. In fact, they all were legit strays adopted and trained or came from the pound and were adopted and trained. For more on that, go down the YouTube rabbit hole and enjoy that ride.
Strays is currently streaming exclusively on Peacock and available for rent or purchase on Apple TV, Video On Demand, and Prime Video.
Keeley Brooks is a big ole movies, television, and streaming nerd with a voracious appetite for entertainment consumption and an uncontrollable urge to write about everything she watches, even if it sucks.