A dog of a raunchy comedy.
We’re in a time when raunchy comedies poke fun at children’s entertainment. There was the pot-smoking Teddy Bear in Seth MacFarlene’s “Ted,” the horny hotdogs in “Sausage Party,” the cursing puppets in “The Happytime Murders,” and the preteens trying to get rid of some drugs in “Good Boys.” Now, this genre goes to the dogs in “Strays,” with the voices of Will Ferrell and Jamie Foxx, but it’s too gross and tedious to be a doggone good time. It contains the usual dog jokes about poop, vomit-eating, and the fact that they and humans can’t understand each other.
It’s directed by Josh Greenbaum, who made the delightful “Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar,” and produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who both brought vulgarity to new heights in “21 Jump Street” and its sequel “22 Jump Street.” Here, they and writer Dan Perrault all decide to spoof “The Secret Life of Pets” and “Homeward Bound,” but they all take the most obvious approaches.
Ferrell voices Reggie, a Border Terrier, who can’t seem to take a hint that his owner Doug (voiced by Will Forte) cares more about his penis than he does on him. In fact, this bum hates Reggie-calls him “Sh*tstain,” pushes him away, blames his break-up and eviction notice on him, and even tries to get rid of him. Reggie thinks Doug is playing a game called “Fetch & F***,” which means the jerk drives the dog out of town, throws the ball, and drives away, only for the owner to say “F***” when the dog returns.
This time, Doug drives him out of town for 3 hours straight and into a city, where it’s most likely, the dog will never follow him home. Reggie tries to and ends up wandering around the city meeting the streetwise Boston Terrier Bug (voiced by Foxx), who teaches him about the joys of being without an owner. He takes him for a fun night with his canine buddies: the therapy Great Dane Hunter (voiced by Randall Park) and his Australian Shepard crush Maggie (voiced by Isla Fisher).
Reggie finally gets the message that Doug never wanted him, and decides to return him. They’re all like “Wait, What?” and “Are you not listening to us?,” but his mind is clear. He’s returning home to “Bite his dick off.” How original. A raunchy comedy about destroying an appendage.
Bug, Hunter, and Maggie all join Reggie on his trek, which includes fire works making them think it’s the end of the world, hungry eagles (ripping off “The Proposal”), magic mushrooms that predictably make them slaughter a family of rabbits, and a pound which requires them to dedicate in order to escape.
“Strays” tries to show off its sweet side when the dogs help a Girl Scout who is lost in the woods. The dogs are well-trained and the voice work from Foxx, Park, and Josh Gad (as a narrator dog) can be lively. But the overall movie is a missed opportunity. I’m an uncle to two dogs, and I’ve seen some of the funniest things they have ever done. When they see seals, they think they’re dogs. When they run into dog statues, they think they’re real. And when they’re hungry, they put their heads on my lap. Sure, all dogs can do that, but through my eyes, it’s funny.
But these dogs are given the same old material, half of them are stomach-churning and half of them are crass. And the F-bombs have to be obligatory with practically every dog dropping it, as it’s supposed to be funny. Cursing can usually be funny when it’s taken seriously in a comedy, but in other cases, you’re supposed to say “FU” with sincerity. Not just for general laughs. “The Happytime Murders” learned that lesson the hard way,” but “Ted” and “Sausage Party” handled their material with some liveliness. “Strays” isn’t housebroken.
This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strikes.