This review of The Beanie Bubble was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Directed by Josh Greenbaum and produced by Phil Lord Christopher Miller, Strays satirizes talking dog movies with some naughty surprises.
We’ve all randomly thought about what our dogs are really thinking. Movies like Homeward Bound, Cats & Dogs, and The Secret Life of Pets have long given audiences a happy and positive look into the minds of man’s best friend as they go on adventures of their own. If you’re looking for another heartwarming tale, Strays is probably not for you. If you’re looking to laugh and point at the screen saying, “That’s definitely what my dog is saying!” then this is your movie. When you can sum up the hero’s journey of a film as “a dog’s quest to bite his abusive owner’s d*** off”, you know you have something special.
The film mainly follows a small dog named Reggie (voiced by Will Ferrell) who is “living the life” with his neglectful owner Doug (Will Forte). Doug does everything in his power to show Reggie how much he is not wanted in his home and Reggie does everything he can to show Doug how happy he is. Their game of “Fetch and F***” — where Doug drives Reggie into the middle of nowhere and throws a tennis ball before driving away — backfires on poor Reggie when he is dropped off hours away from home in the middle of a city. Reggie begins to realize that Doug isn’t coming back and he’s now alone on the streets, that is until he meets another stray dog named Bug (voiced by Jamie Foxx).
“You’re a stray now, you can do anything you want.”
Bug takes Reggie under his wing and introduces him to the life of a free dog. The options are limitless: scraps of food, sprinklers to run through, garden gnomes to hump, you name it! Bug also introduces Reggie to two other strays in the pack: Maggie (voiced by Isla Fisher) and Hunter (voiced by Randall Park), who join in on their late-night festivities.
When the other dogs learn of Reggie’s abusive owner and the fact that Reggie still wants to return to him, they decide to help the wayward dog come to the realization that his relationship was toxic. Reggie then makes the declaration that they’re all going to find a way back to his home and “bite Doug’s d*** off”. This leads to a wild Americana journey back to Doug’s rural home, where the strays encounter other dogs, cats, birds, Dennis Quaid (you heard me) and of course the mailman. There are also some bunnies…but I don’t know anything about them…
An old dog movie with new tricks.
In the same style as 2019’s Good Boys, this movie capitalizes on a short runtime and as much shock value humor as it can fit into said runtime. Whether you’re a dog owner or a dog lover or even if you don’t like dogs at all, Strays leans into some of the strange things dogs do and attempts to give them an explanation. A running joke throughout the whole movie is that all dogs acknowledge the mystery behind why humans insist on picking up their poop in bags, with some even believing it’s to “make chocolate.”
While there are many gross and raunchy jokes to be had, there’s also plenty of heart in Strays. We see the neglectful and borderline abusive living conditions Reggie has to put up with; we see Bug’s backstory as a puppy who was adopted and bit his owner after being stepped on and was almost put down before escaping the vet. The story is really about Reggie discovering his self-worth and that the way he was being treated was not love like he thought it was.
Ferrell and Foxx are hilarious and really personify each of their dogs in a very memorable way. Fisher and Park are also very funny and have some great character moments that make them stand out. Will Forte as Doug was chosen perfectly, as he plays an unemployed abusive a****** like no one else could have. This makes the climactic event at the end of the film (and the A+ song choice) that much more effective as you’re rooting for Reggie to get his revenge. The Dennis Quaid cameo was so unexpected and goofy and is by far one of my favorite comedy movie moments in the past few years.
The bottom line.
While this movie is far from a feel-good dog story or a sad Marley & Me tale (you can’t make me watch it, I won’t do it), there is still quite a bit of fun to be had if you enjoy these types of unapologetically crass comedies. It’ll make you look at your dog differently and you’ll now understand all the unspeakable things they’re screaming at your postal workers. With a rockstar cast of actors and a howling good adventure, this is one of the better comedies in recent memory and is worth checking out. But I’d leave the kids and pups at home.
Strays is now playing in theaters. Watch the trailer here.
STRAYS - 7/10