Universal has moved “Strays” from June 9 to August 18, placing the R-rated talking-animal comedy in the same general release slot where the likes of “Good Boys” and “We’re The Millers” found fortune and glory in years prior. Now, instead of opening against “Transformers: Rise of the Beast,” itself something of a talking-animal tentpole, it’ll square off against DC’s “Blue Beetle.”
It will replace the untitled comedy from the Please Don’t Destroy comedy group. That film, starring “Saturday Night Live” vets Ben Marshall, John Higgins and Martin Herlihy, will now go straight to Peacock on Nov. 17. It further highlights the challenges in releasing big new comedies in theaters since you still might need big new stars . While most “Saturday Night Live” movies were not theatrically successful, “Wayne’s World” and “Blues Brothers” are the exception, the near-disappearance of the SNL comedian-to-movie star pipeline is one reason why we have yet to see the “next” Adam Sandler or Eddie Murphy in the last several years.
Starring a bunch of profanity-spewing, vulgar, horny and otherwise R-rated animals voiced by the likes of “Saturday Night Live” vet Will Ferrell, Isla Fisher, Randal Park and Jamie Foxx, “Strays” will now open in what is essentially the last “big” weekend of the summer 2023 season. This also positions the comedy, about a dog who realizes that his human owner is a selfish jerk and embarks on a mission of revenge, away from the likes of “Joy Ride,” “No Hard Feelings” and “Theater Camp.”
In prior years, the summer season has seen one big multi-quadrant comedy break out and leg out in mid-August. Think “We’re the Millers” ($270 million in 2013), “Let’s Be Cops” ($138 million in 2014), “Sausage Party” ($141 million in 2016), “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” ($187 million in 2017), “Crazy Rich Asians” ($239 million in 2018) and “Good Boys” ($111 million in 2019). Those films came in all shapes and sizes — even “The Help” in 2011 was very much a comedic drama — but they were all comedies first and whatever elements, be it action, animation or aspirational romance, second.
Live-action comedies have struggled in the last several years, even before COVID, with formally bankable comedy stars like Ferrell, Kevin Hart and Melissa McCarthy hooking their wagons to the streaming platforms. “Strays” is one of the more high-profile examples of Hollywood again making a go of trying to get audiences into theaters for old-school laughers.
Directed by Josh Greenbaum (“Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar”) and penned by Dan Perrault (
American Vandal), “Strays” also stars Josh Gad, Harvey Guillén, Rob Riggle, Brett Gelman, Jamie Demetriou and Sofia Vergara. It is produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, Erik Fieg, Adiya Sood, Louis Leterrier and Dan Perrault. The film is executive produced by Nikki Baida, Doug Merrifield, Jessica Switch and Julia Hammer. It now opens on August 18.