18th Aug2023

‘Strays’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Features the voices of: Will Ferrell, Jamie Foxx, Will Forte, Isla Fisher, Randall Park, Josh Gad, Harvey Guillén, Rob Riggle, Brett Gelman, Jamie Demetriou, Sofia Vergara | Written by Dan Perrault | Directed by Josh Greenbaum

Produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie), this inspired comedy takes the previously family-friendly talking dog movie genre and turns it into an outrageously filthy, frequently gasp-inducing, R-rated laugh riot. It just might be the funniest film of the year.

Will Ferrell (sounding a lot like Paul Rudd) voices Reggie, a hopelessly naïve Border Terrier who can’t see that his owner, Doug (Will Forte) is a hateful, selfish loser who despises him. One day, Doug drives Reggie several miles away and abandons him, though Reggie still thinks they are playing their favourite game, “Fetch and f**k”, so called because that’s what Doug yells, every time Reggie finds his way home again.

Fortunately, Reggie is befriended by stray Boston Terrier Bug (Jamie Foxx), who teaches him to enjoy the freedom that comes with being on the streets, such as being able to eat, drink and hump whatever they want. And when the truth about Doug finally dawns on Reggie, he and Bug team up with Australian Shepherd Maggie (Isla Fisher), and cone-wearing therapy Great Dane Hunter (Randall Park) to exact a violent revenge on his former owner.

If you’ve seen the Red Band, R-rated trailer for Strays, rest assured that although it gives away a handful of the best jokes (one involving a cameo it would be churlish to reveal here), it still barely scratches the surface in terms of the sheer number of genuinely hilarious, laugh-out-loud gags. Indeed, the gag rate is extremely impressive, ensuring that you’re never more than a few seconds away from a funny line, a great visual joke, a throwaway gag or a full-on comedy set-piece.

On top of that, the script – by Dan Perrault – takes the film to some truly jaw-dropping extremes, from a set-piece involving magic mushrooms to a scene set in a dog pound that will test even the sturdiest viewer’s tolerance for toilet humour. In addition, director Josh Greenbaum sets up the more shocking set-pieces beautifully – you see the gag coming, and you’re thinking, ‘They’re not going to go there…are they?’ And then they go even further, with increasingly hilarious results.

Perrault’s script is extremely impressive throughout, whether it’s showcasing great character humour from the four leads or brilliantly spoofing the clichés of the talking dog genre (the aforementioned cameo is someone who’s done more than one cute dog movie). One especially inspired gag involves a voice cameo from Josh Gad as “Narrator Dog”, a seemingly throwaway gag that, once again, goes much further than you’re expecting.

The voice performances are pure comic perfection, with Ferrell and Foxx in particular on top form. Indeed, Foxx is so good as Bug that it’s tempting to see this as his best comedy performance to date. Park and Fisher also make a great double act, while Forte deserves credit for giving Doug no redeeming features whatsoever, so that you’re actively rooting for the dogs to succeed in their violent revenge plan.

In short, this is flat-out hilarious from start to finish, a howlingly funny comedy that rivals Sausage Party (a good reference point) for its commitment to pushing that R-rating as far as it will go, and then some. It also features what is, unquestionably, the needle-drop of the year. Highly recommended.

**** 4/5

Strays is in cinemas now.


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