Dogs have long deserved their own gross-out comedy. Think about it: for all the adulation they earn from humans, dogs are also adorably distasteful; sordid little creatures who think almost exclusively in terms of humping, bodily fluids, and their next meal, no matter where it came from. Man’s best friend is also man’s grossest friend. Why has there never been a filthy film about them?
Sure enough, Strays — a comedy told entirely from the perspective of dogs — rises ably to the challenge, boasting a genre’s worth of poop, wee, vomit, erections, pubes, and inanimate-object-sex. It plays like a four-legged Farrelly brothers film, crude and crass and not for the prude-hearted.
The whole thing feels like an R-rated kids movie — a kind of Babe: Pig In The City for juvenile adults.
Will Ferrell’s scruffy-faced Reggie is our hero here, a naive and innocent dog unloved by his deadbeat stoner-owner Doug (Will Forte). Reggie remains blissfully oblivious of this abusive reality — until he meets streetwise stray Bug (Jamie Foxx); together they make the treacherous expedition back to Doug, The Incredible Journey-style, so that Reggie can bite Doug’s dick off. A bildungsroman of sorts, if you will.
Ferrell narrates the film like a peppy children’s TV show, and in fact the whole thing feels like an R-rated kids movie — a kind of Babe: Pig In The City for juvenile adults, right down to the slightly uncanny marriage of real animal ‘performances’ and CGI mouth animation. Like all gross-out comedies, that sense of immaturity runs through the whole film, and the comedy delights in the lowbrow, rolling around in it like a dog rolling around in its own doo-doo. Your mileage will vary over whether you laugh at, say, the scene where four dogs piss on each other in unison.
Director Josh Greenbaum, following up the sublimely oddball wackiness of Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar, doesn’t go for humour quite as left field as that earlier film, and Dan Perrault’s script generally opts for the broadest route. But there is room for at least a handful of genuine laugh-out-loud moments, and — among the more obvious Secret Life Of Pets jokes about dogs barking at their own reflection in the mirror — a solid understanding of why humans love these disgusting little gremlins so much.