Strays

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Comedy;
Box Office $23.99 million;
$19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for pervasive language, crude and sexual content, and drug use.
Stars Will Forte. Voices of Will Ferrell, Jamie Foxx, Isla Fisher, Randall Park, Rob Riggle.

The raunchy animal adventure Strays takes aim at countless dog movie tropes with often hilarious results. But the film is also surprisingly effective at wringing some emotional resonance out of its premise.

Will Ferrell voices Reggie, a scruffy border terrier with unconditional love for his owner, Doug (Will Forte). However, Doug despises the idea of taking care of a pet, and only kept the pup to spite an ex-girlfriend who dumped him for cheating on her. When Doug dumps Reggie in a city three hours away, Reggie is determined to return home.

After a few local dogs hear the naïve Reggie’s story, they convince him that he’s been abandoned, leading Reggie to devise a new quest — to return home to teach Doug a lesson by biting off his genitals.

Reggie’s ad hoc pack includes Bug (Jamie Foxx), a tough-talking Boston Terrier; Maggie (Isla Fisher), a glamorous Australian Shepherd whose owner now prefers smaller social-media friendly dogs; and Hunter (Randall Park), a Great Dane who works as a therapy dog at a senior center.

The crux of the film involves the foul-mouthed dogs talking to each other with CG effects to make their lips move, giving the film the feeling of a crude version of Lady and the Tramp. The road trip aspect gives the film an air of Homeward Bound as well, while a couple of well-placed cameos spoof more-recent dog movies such as A Dog’s Purpose.

The jokes don’t always land, but the filmmaking is earnest enough in its intentions to connect with dog lovers who should appreciate the affection the movie has for man’s best friend.

The Blu-ray includes a fun commentary with director-producer Josh Greenbaum and screenwriter-producer Dan Perrault, in which they discuss many of the tricks used to get the dogs at the center of the story to perform as needed to move the story along. For many scenes they just filmed the dogs being dogs and wrote around it.

 Also included are six featurettes totaling 35 minutes of behind-the-scenes material.

The general making of the film is told in the six-and-a-half-minute “The Ultimate Treat: Making Strays”; the five-and-a-half-minute “Training to Be Stray” focuses on how the filmmakers got the dogs to perform;  the six-and-a-half-minute “Poop, Booms, and Shrooms” deals with some practical on-set visual effects; “Talk Like a Dog” is a seven-minute video about the voice cast; “Will Forte, Stray Actor” is a tongue-in-cheek six minute profile of the man behind the film’s primary human character; and “A New Best Friend” is a three-and-a-half-minute piece in which the actors talk about their own dogs, and Greenbaum discusses how he adopted one of the puppies that played young Reggie after their scenes were filmed.

 

The War With Grandpa

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Comedy;
Box Office $18.39 million;
$22.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG’ for rude humor, language, and some thematic elements.
Stars Robert De Niro, Oakes Fegley, Uma Thurman, Rob Riggle, Laura Marano, Poppy Gagnon, Cheech Marin, Christopher Walken, Jane Seymour.

Based on the children’s novel of the same name by Robert Kimmel Smith, The War With Grandpa is an odd little comedy that seems more mean-spirited than it turns out to be.

Robert De Niro stars as Ed, who moves in with his daughter (Uma Thurman) after an accident. When he’s given the room of his grandson, Peter (Oakes Fegley), this upsets the young lad. And since he’s just learning about the U.S. Revolutionary War and the Declaration of Independence in school, he sends a note to grandpa declaring war unless his room is returned.

Grandpa has a few chuckles with his pals over the note, but doesn’t take it too seriously, prompting Peter to escalate things to a full-on prank war.

Ed, understanding his grandson’s frustration but egged on by his friends, pulls Peter aside and they work out a series of rules for when and where they can prank each other — the most important one is not letting Peter’s parents or other siblings find out about it — so it never gets beyond harmless fun.

That is, until Peter’s younger sister has a Christmas-themed birthday party that gives the filmmakers all sorts of excuses for mayhem.

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 The War With Grandpa is filled with occasional laughs and should serve as a nice diversion for families looking to pass the time. In addition to the pretty standard back-and-forth prank format, the film also heavily relies on a “Family Guy”-style flashback structure — in which a character brings up something that happened, prompting the film to cut to a scene of the humorous incident occurring.

There’s also some clever stuff about the generational technology gap, as grandpa can’t figure out how phones and automated checkout machines work, while the Jenny the youngest granddaughter keeps asking if Ed wants to watch a movie on the tablet she’s always toting around.

The Blu-ray presentation doesn’t include any extras.

‘A Happening of Monumental Proportions’ Arrives on DVD and Digital Oct. 23

Lionsgate will release A Happening of Monumental Proportions, the directorial debut from actress Judy Greer, on DVD, digital and on demand Oct. 23.

The comedy takes place over the course of one day and follows a group of school administrators as they find themselves caught up in a sex scandal that leads to the discovery of the dead body of the school’s groundskeeper. The cast includes Common, Jennifer Garner, Katie Holmes, John Cho, Rob Riggle, Bradley Whitford, Anders Holm and Allison Janney.

The DVD includes a behind-the-scenes featurette.