Strays 2023 Movie Review
If the recent bout of comedies has taught me something, it’s that a movie can be funny, good (on its merits minus the comedy), have a likable cast… but if the promotional marketing doesn’t entice you in believing that the comedy has at least two of those three, then it’s unlikely to gain any traction or attention. Because we were graced with a red band trailer, we would know exactly what kind of comedy it would provide. The plot felt basic enough to not expect Academy-level storytelling, so it is all up to that cast. We have dogs. Do you love dogs? Combined with the comedy, this may be just the movie for you.
I don’t want to oversell things too much, as what you see in the red band trailer is the kind of comedy that you get. Jokes are surface level with sex, drugs, and plenty of foul language, mixed with plenty of dog antics. You might not laugh the hardest you’ve ever laughed, but it just makes sure that you laugh enough plenty of times. Jokes aren’t ever cringy, just crude/try-hard enough to keep the smiles permeating. Somewhere is a PG-rated version of this that could exist, and I don’t know if it would bring enough “laughs” or “good story” with the love of dogs to bring in the masses, so clearly Lord & Miller knew their selling point was to bring on the filthy.
The sell for me however was the dogs. I know that if we had the choice to hear dogs’ thoughts we’d prefer not to, but we have ways of communicating for them ourselves and this movie does exactly that. Because they do, for dog owners and dog lovers out there, this can bring certain emotions that’ll make you want to go home, hug your dog, and reassure them that they the greatest joy of your life. For all of the moments that bring you levity, somewhere Sarah McLachlan may be lurking around in your mind singing “Angel” and reminding you that dogs (and many other domesticated animals) tell us everything about what they’re feeling without saying a word, and a raunchy slapstick comedy such as this one does so easily in about 90 minutes.
I never saw The Adventures of Milo and Otis or the live-action version of Lady and the Tramp, and I fast-forward through those other dog food commercials where they use CGI to open their mouths, but color me amazed when you have a film with animals as the stars. Half of the time I was watching, I sat there wondering how they achieved the shots that they wanted. It’s quite adorable to think of these dogs as a cast of actors and they are trained to do certain things on command when the word “action” is called; in fact, this brings me back to feeling bad for some of the pooches when you put a funnel on them or shove them off of a couch for the sake of our entertainment. There are times where I’m sure they use visual effects trickery outside of mouth movement, but for the most part it seems you are seeing real dogs do real action. Speaking of which, I almost feel there would be a unique innocence if they didn’t bother to move their mouths, so they speak more in “thought” than anything else. I think it would’ve worked just fine to anthropomorphize them a little less. That’s neither here nor there, but it would save them on budget if they gave it a shot and it should still have good effect.
Will Ferrell was in where I find him best: portraying a fish-out-of-water character. In this case, a dog being a stray for the first time. Jamie Foxx was hilarious, but Randall Park as Hunter was my favorite and will probably be the most for others as well. Rob Riggle seems like an obvious choice to voice a dog but I felt his was a little more out of place, though he’s not in it much to matter. Will Forte plays our main human character, and is the perfect jackass to motivate our strays. In fact, any time humans were around they really did help bring together that wholesome touch that remind us about the connection that makes dogs special as our best friends. This movie isn’t written with tons of heart in mind, but in its very own nature you will find it if you care for our canine comrades as much as I do.
To bring it all together, it’s funny enough without splitting your sides and cheats by throwing animals in your face as the cast, and yet because it is short and simple it is effective. They could’ve contained themselves more on the R-rating, but they have my blessing as a comedy if they think it’ll make the audience laugh. This works, and I enjoyed myself.