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‘Strays’ Is Not A Breezy Walk In The Park – Review

*This review was published during the ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. At GoC, we fully support the creatives who are part of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes.

Universal Studios is trying to capitalize on a concept almost universally beloved with Strays, yet another comedy that inserts voice-over dialogue over the digitally animated mouth of some animals in the hope of creating a narrative. But like most efforts to make this idea happen, the illusion becomes incredibly old after the movie’s first act, trapping audiences in a deep fake scenario that will entirely rely on the voice performances behind the main characters of this road trip. Unfortunately, they won’t be entertaining enough to justify the existence of a disappointing story.

In the R-rated comedy, Reggie (Will Ferrell) is a dog who lives with an abusive owner named Doug (Will Forte). Since they can’t communicate with each other, Reggie believes that Doug actually loves him, while the human is looking to get rid of him through any means necessary. Doug isn’t a good person at all, completely disregarding the people around him. His partner has left him, his mother can’t keep sending him money, and he’s about to be evicted. Regardless of what’s going on in his life, his treatment towards his pet is unnaturally evil, as Reggie did nothing but love him.

(Courtesy of Universal Pictures)

When Doug drives three hours to get away from Reggie, the dog meets a group of stray dogs who know how to party. Bug (Jamie Foxx) is Reggie’s first friend in his new life on the streets. Foxx does a wonderful job with the script he’s given, having the time of his life voicing the standout role from the feature. Bug hasn’t had an owner for a while, and he’s already an expert in wandering the city, looking for food and shelter. Bug is assertive and unpredictable and perfectly reflects the world where wild animals must survive daily. And he wasn’t the only friend Reggie would make in his journey.

Maggie (Isla Fisher) and Hunter (Randall Park) are there to fill out the gang. When the entire group gets together, they only have one objective: To rip off Doug’s genitals with a single bite. Reggie’s rage after feeling abandoned inspires the entire ordeal, with his friends knowing what it’s like to be left behind because someone didn’t appreciate them enough. This premise would leave the four dogs ready to face everything coming their way, including other wild animals and mushrooms that would send their brains across different dimensions.

The fatal flaw in Josh Greenbaum’s comedy is its script. Dan Perrault was responsible for penning the journey of four abandoned dogs with one of the most unconventional motivations in recent years. The dialogue isn’t strong enough to carry the concept throughout the feature’s 93-minute runtime. And while the actors sounded like they were having the time of their lives in the recording booth, they were carrying a wasted idea. It was an empty concept for an entire theatrical release, lingering on something that could’ve looked better in a short video posted on social media.

(Courtesy of Universal Pictures)

It’s not anyone’s fault. The studio didn’t set out to release something that becomes stale so quickly. But the truth is that unless you enjoy similar content on the internet, there won’t be much substance to find within Strays. Just compared to other comedies released in recent years, it doesn’t pack a punch to make any of its characters, jokes or gags memorable. Instead, it’s a subtle reminder of how comedy can relate to the emotional journey of a character instead of something absurd for the sake of appearing to be unpredictable.

Even the guest cameos included for laughter aren’t strong enough to carry Strays on their back. Every now and then, a celebrity voices another dog or shows up on camera as Reggie and the gang are passing by, but just like the rest

With a boring script, slightly entertaining performances and not enough storytelling to carry its short runtime, Strays fails to entertain with the story of a dog voiced by Will Ferrell looking for revenge. Taking out your actual pet for a walk will turn out to be more entertaining than 90 minutes of jokes that sound like they were written in a minute and a simplistic plot that randomly comes up with strange gags in an attempt to replace what it lacks with the presentation of its characters. The dog days are not over, but they should’ve been a long time ago.

Rating: 5.5/10

Strays releases in theaters on August 18.

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