Potty-mouthed pooches fetch raunchy comedy in ‘Strays’

From Rin Tin Tin to Scooby-Doo, dogs have ruled, if not drooled at the box-office. But is an R-rated potty-mouthed, gross-out joke-filled doggie movie with Will Ferrell and Jamie Foxx as best dog friends barking up the wrong tree during the dog days of summer?

The film combines live-action with VFX dogs (and in one case, a Golden Eagle) voiced by Ferrell, Foxx and the rest of the cast. When the dogs talk, their mouths move along with the words.

Our hero is a dog named Reggie (Ferrell). He’s an optimistic border terrier pitifully faithful to his evil human owner Doug (Will Forte), whose favorite accessories are his bong and his laptop. Even though the human is cruel to Reggie, the dog loves Doug and has a misguided bond with him. Eventually, Doug drives three hours to lose Reggie in a city, where Reggie, who has been damaged by this co-dependent relationship, meets new friend Bug (Foxx), a Boston terrier with attitude to spare, who teaches Reggie the rules of the street. Bug teaches Reggie to hump everything, including a lawn gnome that Reggie refers to as his son (not creepy at all). They eventually meet a keen-tracker and Australian shepherd named Maggie (Isla Fisher) and a big, rangy Great Dane named Hunter (Randall Park), who has a large plastic cone on his head, Together they all take a journey into the wilderness and later join in with a group of tracking dogs to help find a lost girl.

Throughout it all, Reggie is ambiguous about his feelings for the wretch Doug, and Bug tries to keep his friend humping inanimate objects to distract him. On their journey they come across an aggressive Rottweiler (Jimmy Tatro) and a tiny dog that has also been abused, whose name I cannot tell you (Harvey Guillen, “What We Do in the Shadows”). Hungry, the dogs devour mushrooms and Bug has a magic vision of a favorite sofa (seductively voiced by Sofia Vergara). One point the film makes is that the human Doug is just as fixated on his naughty bits as dogs. With his new friends, Reggie experiences real love for the first time, so, of course, he asks his friends to pee on him and one another. It’s a baptism of sorts, dog sorts, I suppose, and smelly. Reggie resolves to take bloody vengeance against Doug, and we know we’re going to see it in great Looney Tune detail.

Directed by Josh Greenbaum (“Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar”) and written by Dan Perrault (“American Vandal”), “Strays” can get monotonous even at 90 minutes. Its biggest poop scene takes place inside a pen in an animal recovery facility. It’s disgusting, especially when a guard enters the room where the dogs are, takes a breath, and, in a moment when Perrault throws caution to the wind, says, “I can taste it.” A big cameo in the film is mostly bewildering. You’ll hear plenty of hip-hop to accentuate the film’s action, and near the end the director evokes Miley Cyrus’ angry anthem “Wrecking Ball.” At heart, “Strays” is an R-rated Disney film with humping, poop and barf-eating dogs, who form a loving union. It’s “The Lady and the Tramp” except the Tramp is a little perverted bulldog.

(“Strays” contains profanity, lewd language, gross imagery and sexually graphic material)


Rated R. At AMC Boston Common, AMC Sout Bay and suburban theaters. Grade: B

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