July 20, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Film Review: Strays

FILM REVIEW
STRAYS
Rated R
93 Minutes
Released August 18th

I’m not usually drawn to movies with talking animals. “Strays,” though, is so skillfully made, with such an original take on canine culture and dog-human relationships, that I thoroughly enjoyed the film. This is director Josh Greenbaum’s second feature, his first having been Barb and Starr Go to Vista Del Mar, also a wonky comedy. This is no Disney movie, and it’s absolutely not a kids or family movie. It’s a treatise on our relationships with our pets and what they tell us about our culture and our psychology. It’s a raunchy road trip featuring canine protagonists using landmarks to find their way back home, their conversation dubbed from “dog language” into English by the likes of Will Ferrell, Jamie Fox, Isla Fisher, and Randall Park. The style is more Rap or Trap Music lyrics than children’s books. Our team of stray dogs navigates dangers that lurk in their environment, most pointedly from unstable humans, as portrayed by Will Forte as “Doug” and Bruce Gelman as “Willie.” 

The funny and revealing concept of how dogs perceive the humans around them is the genius of this movie. It’s a send-up of so many traits of our human personalities that we take way too seriously. The story includes a “Me-Too” Movement type of commentary on human abuse of pets with a suggestion that taking responsibility for our actions and helping others is an antidote to that kind of behavior. Due to the skill of the film’s animal actors, their handlers, the cinematographer, and the voice actors, these dogs become friends you want to root for. The line between dog and human personalities is blurred, as often happens in the real world, and the dogs can also make mistakes and perhaps destroy something unintentionally, as happens in reality. The difference between the dogs and humans is that dogs are more forgiving and loyal. 

The dogs in “Strays” are so much like people that we tend to relate to them like people, and that’s also the magic of real dogs. You will perhaps be reminded of all the dogs who have graced your life because they communicated with you on an instinctive level. The movie presents the world from a dog’s point of view, which is very refreshing because, as you may know, in addition to having an exponentially better sense of smell than humans, dogs also may have arguably a more unscathed emotional intelligence than a great percentage of us. “Strays” is a celebration of dogs.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which has been the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people.  She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com

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