IMG via Universal Pictures

Strays is a movie trailer stretched into a feature-length film. It is a one-joke movie that plays its hand within the film’s opening frames (cute dogs that curse and/or are cursed at) and then spends the next ninety minutes banging that same drum. That’s not to say there aren’t occasionally inventive runs at that one joke; there are. The all-star voice cast (Will Ferrell, Jamie Foxx, Randall Park, Isla Fisher, and a plethora of cameos) deliver their lines with maximum commitment and, in doing so, occasionally find new ways of blending the profane with the precious in a funny fashion.

But so much of Strays is just the lowest common denominator of comedy. In an era where theatrical comedy is struggling to be valued by general audiences as anything more than something to wait and watch on a streaming service months later (with Greta Gerwig’s Barbie being the massive exception that proves the rule), Strays feels tailor-made for a streaming service’s most-watched list. It’s a film that is cutesy, irreverent, and ultimately one that feels destined to invite passive viewing experiences from homes across the world. Its predominant brand of humor could be generously described as ‘Facebook Mom Humor,’ which will almost certainly serve the film well in the home-viewing market.

But make no mistake, Strays is made by a genuinely phenomenal filmmaker: Josh Greenbaum. And while there are certainly moments of Greenbaum’s trademark absurdity bleeding through (see: the narrator dog gag), Strays is nothing if not a neutered Josh Greenbaum film. It’s a film with profanity and obscenities to spare but lacks any copious amounts of imaginative creativity or meticulous filmmaking craft that Greenbaum has brought to his other films. So instead of spending the next few hundred words saying anything mean-spirited about Strays, let’s instead say some positive things.

Top 5 Films to Watch That Aren’t “Strays”


5. Joy Ride

As covered in an earlier review, Joy Ride was a wonderful, incredibly funny, and surprisingly emotionally deft comedy film released theatrically earlier this year. It’s still in many theaters and absolutely deserves your time. Adele Lim’s film is incredibly entertaining and features a knockout cast of young performers giving it their all, resulting in one of the funniest films of the year.



4. Barbie

Chances are that you don’t need anyone to tell you to see Barbie, but it’s so fucking good that it’s worth mentioning. The fact that one of the most inventive and defiantly cinematic comedies of the last decade has also become one of the biggest success stories is genuinely delightful. Writer-director Greta Gerwig has specialized in making deeply poignant, achingly soulful films about womanhood for years now, and Barbie is absolutely no exception. Barbie is a wonderful film.



3. Becoming Bond

Before making Strays, director Josh Greenbaum specialized in making deeply thoughtful, obscenely well-structured, and highly entertaining entertainment documentaries, and Becoming Bond is one such absolute delight. Digging deep into the history of the James Bond franchise and chronicling the turbulent and chaotic time period in which George Lazenby became the titular character for a single film in 1969, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Becoming Bond is equal parts hysterical and enlightening thanks to Greenbaum’s incredible work.



2. Too Funny to Fail: The Life & Death of the Dana Carvey Show

Another Josh Greenbaum documentary film, Too Funny to Fail, is a mesmerizing look at the incredibly short-lived The Dana Carvey Show and the sheer lunacy of how much talent was associated with it. From established names like Dana Carvey and Robert Smigel to young then-unknowns such as Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell, Too Funny to Fail sees Greenbaum effectively and entertainingly recounting the history of the project but also delving into how the failure of the show affected those involved, both commercially and emotionally, in ways that are surprisingly profound. Even divorced of context, Josh Greenbaum’s Too Funny to Fail is a miraculous film in its own right.



1. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar

I think Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is pretty easily one of the single greatest achievements in cinematic comedy filmmaking from the past ten years. Directed by Josh Greenbaum, this Kristen Wiig-starring film’s theatrical release was largely abandoned in the midst of COVID lockdowns and it was instead largely relegated to VOD. But since release, Barb and Star has garnered an insatiable cult following, and deservedly so. It is ludicrous and absurd and side-splittingly funny, featuring obscenely wonderful performances from everyone from Kristen Wiig (in a dual role that allows her to shine even brighter than ever before) to Jamie Dornan (who fully sheds the skin of Christian Grey to become one of the most charming and charismatic leading men of the past decade).

It’s an absurdist comedy musical delight, one that Greenabum directs to meticulous perfection. In a landscape of distinctly bland, uninspired, made-for-streaming comedy films, Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar has dozens-upon-dozens of jokes which are communicated solely through the visual language of the camera, and Greenbaum knocks each and every one of them out of the park. Like, to my mind, there is a straight-line to be drawn from immaculate comedy films like Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights to Josh Greenbaum’s Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar. That’s how fucking phenomenally cinematic and great this film is, so if you haven’t seen it, go watch it right now.




Listen, I found little to love or even like about Strays. But not for a single moment should the fact that Strays isn’t great detract anything from the people who made it. The cast is wonderful, and quite frankly, Josh Greenbaum could spend the rest of his career making films that don’t resonate with me personally, and he would still be cinematic royalty in my house. He is a wonderful filmmaker who has spent years furthering his own personal pursuit of the craft, and I will never not look immensely forward to whatever he is doing next. I just hope it isn’t Strays 2.