The Stray Review: A Movie that Tries Too Hard to Hit the Heart

This post was most recently updated on October 6th, 2017

The Stray movie, distributed by Purdie Distribution, has all the elements to make it hit you in the heart but it so often it missed. You start with what must’ve been a transformative experience of a family (based on the events from  director Mitch Davis’ life). Not only was Davis directing a film from his life, he directed actual family members too. Davis worked as a creative executive at Disney and wrote a Disney movie film – Windrunner. Many of the actors were from the Davis family. If there was ever a family movie, this is it!

How can you go wrong with a cute dog (Pluto, the wonder dog), love of God, reconciliation and near death? You should have all you need for a wonderful family film. You’d think that a metaphor like lightening striking the heart – sort of like a stray dog did – would really work. The problem is most of the time this film is so dull and uninspiring that the times it does have heart, it’s a bit like a bolt of feeling instead of a steady build.

The real life footage from the family at the end (after the credits) was more genuine and real than any other part of the movie.

The Stray movie Review

As my friend says, “Typical Utah film trying to TELL YOU rather than SHOW you what happened,” noting that it could’ve been worse or a whole lot better. I found the first half such a drag. I couldn’t relate to the characters and there wasn’t much chemistry between the family.

Here are some major themes:
A dad who spends so much time at work as a movie exec that his wife and kids (especially his son) starts to resent him.

A family move to the country to try to reconnect with each other.
Dad and kids decide they want to get a dog and wife says she’ll agree if a stray finds them. And just like that one wanders into their life and heart.
Things go wrong and miracles happen. It includes a bear. I wonder if that happened in the real story. It just seemed so fake.
This movie tries so hard but for me the dialog wasn’t interesting and the story jumped around without ever endearing us to any character, including Pluto. When we finally get to the tent scene we start to feel something because this part of the movie is very sad, but we don’t have enough attachment to any of the characters to care too deeply. Unless you’re 6 years old. My 6 year old was devastated at the scary and sad parts.  She cried so hard, she was practically sobbing (but she’s a cryer). So be aware that the best scenes of the movie (the tent scenes) can be frightening to young children.
Note: we were invited to the film’s opening and were comped the tickets.
Alexis did have a great time meeting Emily (on the far right – she plays Rachel Davis in the movie) before the film started. I liked hearing from Mitch about his experiences and the who’s who in the audience as well as intros to the real life family members who were portrayed in the film. I wished someone could tell us the story from their own perspective and it probably would’ve been more interesting. 
Before seeing the Stray we met Emily who is part of the Davis family (in real life and in the film).
The lightning striking the tent was corny. It starts the movie and is the dramatic climax of the show. I guess you can recover quickly and suffer no ongoing pain if you’re hit. The trip to the mountains spent was wandering and dull. I thought you couldn’t go wrong with a Cat Stevens song but if all it is showing is a long drive, even that gets tedious. There were few original, funny or poignant lines. Sometimes I couldn’t understand what the little boy was saying because he’s not speaking clearly or the sound is bad (not sure which).
I had so many questions like,
Why didn’t the dad tell the other kids parents what happened?
How come the dad doesn’t seem to be in much pain for how injured he was?
Why didn’t anyone check on the dog until many scenes forced on the dad? You’d think someone would say, what about Pluto, was he hit?
How could we weren’t more attached to the dog?
Still having a tough time after seeing the movie…even after meeting Pluto.
Everyone should be able to relate to the dog and think he’s cute. If there were dry eyes after the tent scene then you for sure should’ve gotten us on the grave scene.
At the end you see actual clips from the real family this story is based on. There is a real bond with their stray dog that you can feel almost immediately. In the movie the feelings weren’t more than a few inches deep. Still, the crowd gave the movie wholehearted applause at the end and seemed to genuinely love the movie. Or maybe we were clapping for the real family who was there and in honor of what they went through.
This could’ve been a great movie. It had the right elements but just couldn’t rise to greatness and that was frustrating from the very first scene of fake lightning.
The Stray opens this weekend in over 600 theaters. I noticed that it’s playing at several theaters in my area. Check local movie listings for The Stray showtimes (you can buy tickets online before the show at Fandango). Note: I’m an affiliate of Fandango.

2 thoughts on “The Stray Review: A Movie that Tries Too Hard to Hit the Heart”

  • I am formerly from Beaver UT and agreed with your movie review on The Stray. we watched it on dvd about 5 weeks ago and were a bit confused on how it was produced. I like true stories but like you found much lacking in the unanswered content.

    if you have a way to get the song list played by Cat Stevens in the movie I would be most appreciative.
    best regards
    Terry Krasko

  • Hi Terry, it had so much potential!
    Here’s a link to buy Cat Stevens song on Amazon: (affiliate) – I can’t recall the exact song in the movie but I think it’s If you Want to Sing Out, Sing Out. I love the whole classics album though.


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