The great summer smash “Oppenheimer” from Universal is virtually the complete opposite of “Strays” from Universal; it is short, silly, and (appropriately) sort of fun. It’s a pretty raunchy spin on what makes our canine friends funny and a somewhat sharper exploration of dog-movie norms and cliches that aims to brighten the dog days of summer.
In fact, with a cross-country journey woven into the plot, “Strays” has a strong resemblance to the 1993 action film “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey,” which featured celebrity voices, as well as a few other Disney+ films in which a resourceful stray teaches a less worldly dog (or Aristocat) the skills of survival.
Reggie (voiced by Will Ferrell) has a terrible loser of an owner named Doug (Will Forte), who deliberately attempts to dump him several hours away from the house where he mistreats him. Reggie is completely unaware of this dynamic.
Bug (Jamie Foxx), a streetwise stray with nasty language and a penchant for humping inanimate objects, opens Reggie’s eyes.
Initially determined to teach him about living “off the leash,” they are joined by their pets Maggie (Isla Fisher) and Hunter (Randall Park) on a mission to get back to Doug to seek retribution. Hunter is a washed-up police dog who, despite his Great Dane size, constantly wears a cone and is terrified of just about everything.
The film “Strays,” which is being directed by Josh Greenbaum from a script by Dan Perrault and produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (of the “The Lego Movie” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” franchises), doesn’t hold back on any dog-related vulgarity, which, as one might anticipate, ends up being a hit-or-miss proposition.
While this results in many dry stretches, those who succumb to the delighted crudeness of it all will be rewarded with a few amusing moments thanks to the nearly constant dog’s-eye perspective. However, be aware that the majority of the greatest material is in the red-band trailer.
The movie sacrifices (or at least should) some of the younger children who may otherwise find the absurdity and excretory humor appealing by pushing itself so hard. The parody should also hit a nerve by giving the entire genre an extended middle toe for anyone who has been coerced into seeing anything like “A Dog’s Purpose.”