Reggie (voiced by Will Ferrell) is a cute, scruffy little mutt who lives with his owner, Doug (Will Forte), who hates Reggie. Reggie was actually adopted by his ex-girlfriend, and Doug blames Reggie for her leaving him, despite the fact that he is generally a terrible person himself. He only kept Reggie around just to hurt her.
Doug continuously tries to get rid of Reggie, who believes the frequent trips far out into the country ending with a tennis ball thrown into a random field followed by Doug not waiting for him to bring it back is a game. Reggie seems not to realize that this is not fetch until, out of desperation, Doug leaves him in a city over two hours away. There, Reggie meets Bug (voiced by Jamie Foxx), who finally is able to explain to him that what’s going on here is so not fetch. Reggie and his new friend, as well as Hunter (voiced by Randall Park) and Maggie (voiced by Isla Fisher), decide to make the arduous trek back home, not to reunite Reggie with Doug as dog and master, but so Reggie can seek revenge for his mistreatment, specifically by biting Doug’s penis off.
So, that’s the premise of Strays, directed by Josh Greenbaum, a spoof of heartwarming dog movies featuring dogs who have the ability to talk to each other in plain English, if not exactly to humans. It’s an R-rated spoof, so the movie goes out of its way to be as over the top in its canine grossness as it can. I actually found myself laughing at it’s gross-out humor more than I thought I would, but it’s still a cautious recommendation, because it is a very gross movie.
Most of the jokes are pretty obvious, and basically boil down to, yes, dogs definitely do that. “That” is also usually something disgusting involving some bodily function which humanity usually likes to keep private, but animals, not so much. A lot of the humor doesn’t even technically reach the level of “toilet” humor, because dogs don’t use toilets. You’re going to see a lot of dog excrement, as well as lot of random objects being humped, and even a shot of a fully erect canid penis.
I mean, given my audience, more than one reader has seen a few of those before, but not in this context.
However, the cast does a pretty good job of selling the jokes. Supporting characters Hunter and Maggie have their own quirks, with Hunter being a neurotic worrier who wears one of those veterinary cones as a sort of safety blanket, and Maggie as a cute pet who worries she’s about to be replaced by a cuter pet. Rob Riggle appears as a K9 unit German Shepherd, which allows the movie to take a few potshots at cop stereotypes in addition to dog.
All the four main cast members work well, feeling somewhat natural in their roles, or at least improvisational. The characters all have surprisingly thought out arcs for a movie that’s mostly about couch humping jokes. The first half is funnier, partially because the constant gross outs start to slowly wear out their welcome, but also because the second half does follow conventional screenwriting practices and surprisingly does somewhat try to tell a story.
But it’s a fairly predictable story, with some admittedly funny jokes that are marred by also being predictable, as well as often just too gross for a lot of people. The only real suspense is whether or not Reggie will go through with his penis biting plan, and whether or not the movie makers will allow him to.