What if dogs could actually talk? Would they speak with wholesome back porch country witticisms, or would sailors blush at the saltier side of man’s best friend?

If we believe what the new live-action dog movie called Strays is selling, then the latter is most certainly true. Though that sentiment may not be the truth, it is unquestionably more funny.

"explores the raunchier side of man's best friend movies"

The film, brought to life by the creative minds of writer Dan Perrault (American Vandal) and director Josh Greenbaum (Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar), is a funny little gem in the world of subversive comedies. It not only challenges audience expectations, but also takes the concept of canine-cinema to a whole new level by exploring the raunchier side of man's best friend movies, all while managing to be uproariously funny and surprisingly heartfelt.

As with any talking dog film, the main conceit here is that… well, dogs can talk. The difference though is that in Strays, the live action dogs move their lips to the words (albeit via CGI) rather than just offering their innermost thoughts as voice over. In addition, Greenbaum was adamant about having multiple dogs on the screen at the same time (often four-shots!) interacting naturally amongst themselves, as well as playing to the camera. A gargantuan task for sure, but pulled off beautifully here. Animal trainer Mark Forbes (Finch, Benji, Lady and the Tramp) deserves mad props for pulling this off.

If dogs are truly man’s best friend, then what happens when the human part of that familiar equation is less than friendly? In that case, as it is with Reggie, a scruffy, overly optimistic cairn terrier (voiced by Will Ferrell) abandoned by his scumbag owner, Doug (Will Forte), it might be time for some sweet revenge… doggy style.

Struggling to fend for himself out on the mean city streets, Reggie is eventually befriended by a foul-mouthed Boston Terrier named Bug (voiced by Jamie Foxx), an intelligent Australian Shepherd named Maggie (Isla Fisher), and Hunter (Randall Park), an emotional support dog with anxiety issues. Together the four set out on an epic journey to help Reggie find his home and seek revenge upon Doug.Strays

Riddled with raunchy dialogue and numerous poo, pee, penis, and butthole jokes and sight gags, Strays is not for your typical animal movie crowd. After all, it stars Will Ferrell at his potty-mouthed best. Its ace in the hole is its audacious and over-the-top departure from the conventional. While this R-rated dog movie does quite often elicit laughs – it shatters the conventions of talking dog movies while still creating an atmosphere where audiences genuinely care about the characters. The movie fearlessly pokes fun at its own genre by satirizing the overly sentimental nature of talking dog films, while simultaneously weaving a story that even engages the audience on an emotional level.

At the heart of Strays lies an hilariously disgusting – it earns every bit of its R rating – journey of redemption and triumph, with its scruffy, four-pawed protagonist leading the way. The film’s emotional bite is undeniable, as the story touches on the complexities of love, the importance of friendships, and the destructive nature of toxic relationships. Reggie’s abusive owner serves as a potent symbol of these toxic dynamics. But we didn’t come for emotional depth now, did we?

In the end, Strays proves there is room for innovation and surprise in even the most well-trodden genres. It dares to venture into largely unexplored territories of canine storytelling by challenging preconceived notions and inviting audiences to see dogs in a refreshing and shocking, but never mean-spirited, new light.

3/5 stars

Film Details


MPAA Rating: R.
93 mins
: Josh Greenbaum
Dan Perrault
Will Ferrell; Jamie Foxx; Isla Fisher
: Comedy
Unleashed in theaters this summer.
Memorable Movie Quote:
Theatrical Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
August 18, 2023
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: An abandoned dog teams up with other strays to get revenge on his former owner.