‘Strays’ Review: A Raunchy Comedy Goes to the Dogs

by Joe Holman
‘Strays’ Review: A Raunchy Comedy Goes to the Dogs

The King James Bible is loaded with memorable analogies, and one of the most vivid is from Proverbs: “As a dog returneth to its vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.” It’s true — a dog will do that. A dog might also sample the vomit of another dog, as is depicted in one of the many intestinal, fecal and urinal gags served up in the relentlessly raunchy comedy “Strays.”

Directed by Josh Greenbaum from a script by Dan Perrault, “Strays” tells the story of Reggie (voiced by Will Ferrell), a winsome Border terrier who is abandoned by his owner, the miserable, porn-addict stoner Doug (Will Forte).

Alone in an alley, Reggie gets the come-on from some sexy Afghan hounds. How does prostitution work in unsupervised dog society? It is never explained, just as it’s never explained why the animals speak to each other in English while not understanding the English spoken by the humans. The movie uses a mix of live action and computer animation, but world-building was not quite a priority here.

Once Reggie meets the street-smart Boston terrier Bug (Jamie Foxx) and realizes the extent to which Doug hated him, he resolves to find the man and bite off one of his most beloved extremities. In this quest, the new friends are joined by two domesticated dogs: Hunter (Randall Park), a timid Great Dane, and Maggie (Isla Fisher), an elegant but earthy Australian Shepherd.

Over the next 90-plus minutes, the canines drop as many F-bombs as Pacino did in “Scarface.” Then there are the scatological jokes, each one more outlandish than the last, none bearing the slightest tinge of wit or joy. (The thing about John Waters’s extreme underground comedies is that they had, you know, enthusiasm.) Granted, a scene here that takes aim at the convention of the “narrator dog” does produce a curdled laugh, but it does so on its way to a truly nihilistic punchline.

And yet as that proverb warns, one unfortunately can’t rule out a sequel.

Rated R for relentless language, crude humor and gore. Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes. In theaters.

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