A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie's messages all relate to family and faith: Learn to put your family first, trust in God to provide for and protect you, and open your heart to the joys and blessings of a dog/pet.
Positive Role Models
The Davis parents are loving, supportive, and observant. Mitch learns to prioritize his family. Pluto is an extraordinary dog who deserves his nickname of "the wonder dog."
Violence & Scariness
(Spoiler alert!) This is a tough movie for viewers sensitive to animal/pet deaths. A dog dies from being hit by lightning after saving his human's life; his dead body is shown in several subsequent scenes, and he's later buried in an extended funeral sequence. A father and three boys are also hurt by the lightning, but they all survive (the father gets non-life-threatening injuries, including a scar). Other scenes show a toddler running out into the street and a boy getting bullied on the playground and bus.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A married couple kisses and embraces a couple of times. A boy makes a joke about how Pamela Anderson, the star of Baywatch, "saved his life."
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A man is about to say "bastards" but only gets out "bas" before switching to "you know whats." The word "crap" or "crapped" is said a few times.
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Products & Purchases
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Stray is a family-oriented drama based on the experiences that director Mitch Davis and his family had with Pluto, a stray dog that saved the family many times, in various ways. Although the movie is subtly faith based and has relatively little iffy material (a married couple kisses, "crap"/"crapped" is said a couple of times, along with a partial "bastards"), there are some distressing scenes, particularly (spoiler alert) for viewers sensitive to pet deaths. The disturbing moments include a toddler running out into the street, a boy getting bullied on the playground and bus, and a dog sacrificing his life for his humans. The dog's body is shown more than once, and there's even an extended funeral for him. But there are also strong messages about putting family first and opening your heart to the joys and blessings of a dog/pet. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
While the first half of the movie is a wholesome, uplifting family drama, the second half is full of seemingly never-ending distress for dog-loving audiences. There are some things to like about The Stray -- despite Mitch's work-life balance issues and Christian's initial lack of friends, the Davises have a strong, faithful family (Davis is Mormon in real life, but the on-screen Davis family is depicted as Christian, without any specific reference to a particular denomination). The movie's faith-based aspect is downplayed but present in prayers and the subtle message that Pluto was sent to the family by God. But secular families who love dogs might still find the movie appealing ... at least at first.
Cunningham and Lancaster do their best with the script's sentimental material, but there are some head-scratching moments that will force moviegoers to suspend their disbelief one too many times. For instance, it's an admittedly nitpicky detail, but any family camper knows you don't fire up a portable gas burner inside a tent. But pretty much everything that happens on the fateful backpacking trip Mitch takes with Christian and his two friends is difficult to process or believe. And Mitch and the boys' behavior after a catastrophic event just doesn't make any sense. From there, the rest of the movie is a long, painful ordeal -- every scene a strange reminder of what was lost on the camping trip.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.