What is the plot of ‘Strays’?
When a gullible Border Terrier named Reggie (Will Ferrell) is abandoned on the streets by his selfish and ruthless owner Doug (Will Forte), an animal-hating drug addict who never wanted him, he teams up with other strays including a street-wise Boston Terrier named Bug (Jamie Foxx), an Australian Shepherd named Maggie (Isla Fisher), and a therapy Great Dane named Hunter (Randall Park) to get revenge on Doug.
Who is in the cast of ‘Strays’?
- Will Ferrell as the voice of Reggie
- Jamie Foxx as the voice of Bug
- Will Forte as Doug
- Isla Fisher as the voice of Maggie
- Randall Park as the voice of Hunter
- Josh Gad as the voice of Gus
- Harvey Guillén as the voice of Shitstain
- Rob Riggle as the voice of Rolf
- Brett Gelman as Willy
- Sofía Vergara as the voice of Deliliah the Couch
- Dennis Quaid as himself
Moviefone recently had the pleasure of speaking with director Josh Greenbaum about his work on ‘Strays,’ making a hard R-rated version of ‘Homeward Bound,’ his first reaction to the screenplay, the challenges of directing an all dog cast, working with Will Ferrell and Jamie Foxx, and their characters onscreen chemistry.
Moviefone: To begin with, is it fair to say that this movie is a comedic hard R-rated version of ‘Homeward Bound,’ and what was your first reaction to Dan Perrault’s screenplay?
Josh Greenbaum: I think so. I think that’s totally fair. Well, when I first saw the log line, which was, as you can imagine, absurd. It was a little dog, Reggie, who gets abandoned by his mean owner Doug, meets some strays, and then wants to get revenge by biting Doug’s most beloved body part off. I thought, “This sounds amazing. But it sounds a little insane, which I love.” But to be honest, I wondered, “Oh, is it just going to be a dog spoof movie,” to your question of is it just an R-rated ‘Homeward Bound.’ I think it delivered on what I needed and wanted from that of, “Okay, we do subvert the genre and have our fun in moments.” But what really jumped out at me was, “This actually is a fully formed script on its own,” and in a way, made me think of, certainly, wonderful movies like ‘40 Year Old Virgin,’ ‘Bridesmaids’ and ‘Superbad,’ but also ‘Stand By Me,’ and I thought about ‘Breaking Away,’ these films about four friends who go on a journey, and grow, and are underdogs. So, in a way, I think I was always searching for that film, and weirdly it came across my desk in the form of an R-rated dog movie. So, that I think is when I finally hooked in and said, “Oh, this movie’s funny, outrageous and does subvert the dog genre and brings it into the adult world.” But I just love that it actually had heart and functioned on its own as its own story.
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MF: Can you talk about the challenges of directing an all dog cast and the VFX you had to utilize to ensure their safety?
JG: First of all, one of the things I stated when I came on board to direct was I would really like to utilize real dogs as much as possible, mostly because I wanted it to feel really real, I think, for adult audiences to enjoy this. I’ve had dogs my whole life. I live with dogs. I own two dogs now, one of whom I adopted from the movie, who was little puppy Reggie, now lives with us, and I have “Will Ferrell” running around my house. So, I wanted it to feel really grounded and the more it was the more it felt like it was right for adult audiences. I think if it was overly anthropomorphized or overly CG with big expressions, it works with children, but not for adults. I think that I pull out and pull back when I see that kind of work done. So, we only really leaned on the incredible CG and visual effects, obviously, to have them talk. We were unsuccessful training the dogs to talk. But to get them talking, occasionally we would add a little extra emotion here and there. But again, I tried to get the emotion out of the performance of the dog on set. If I needed a dog confused, I wouldn’t have it furrow its brow. I’d have it cock its head sideways the way dogs do. Then, of course, anytime it was anything remotely unsafe for a dog to do, we would go to a full CG dog. So, we have, as an example, a sequence, not giving too much away, but it’s in our trailers, where an eagle comes into the story and you don’t obviously want to mix small dogs with birds of prey. So, that becomes an obvious choice to go to a full CG dog.
MF: Finally, can you talk about Bug and Reggie’s friendship and creating that relationship in the recording studio with Jamie Foxx and Will Ferrell?
JG: I mean, at its core, I think this film, it’s about a few things. It’s certainly about being in a toxic, unhealthy relationship with someone and getting out of it, and how your friends help you through that and find your own sense of self-worth again. I think at the center of that is this relationship between Bug and Reggie. So, casting Will Ferrell and Jamie Foxx, and having them in the voiceover booth working together was just, for me, just magic to watch. They played off of each other so well. They’ve never been in a film together! This is really their first time, and you can feel their chemistry instantly. I mean, both in the film, but I remember being in that voiceover booth and watching these two guys hit the ball back and forth, and it was just a joy to watch. But, yeah, it’s a very sweet relationship. They have differing life philosophies. One is overly optimistic and believes you can trust everyone and put your love in everything, which there’s some validity to that. The other one, I think, has been burned and says, “No, don’t do that. You should protect yourself, close down, don’t trust anyone. Just look after yourself.” For me, that richness, of a thematic conversation to anchor a film on is great. Even though it’s an outrageous, really funny, really fun time of a movie, there’s something really palpable, emotional, and sweet at the center with these two characters. Of course, there’s no one better than Will Ferrell and Jamie Foxx to bring that to life. So, I felt very lucky to have them as my two leads of this movie.