‘The Stray’: One Dog Movie Worth Finding

If you love dogs, or just want a movie for the whole family, “The Stray” may be for you.

I have been noticing that the family film doesn’t really exist in theaters anymore. Now, I’m not talking about animated motion pictures from Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks and others. No, I’m referring to live-action films, with actual people in them, made for families.

If parents have kids that are too young to watch superhero films – and I’m a firm believer that the PG-13 rating that most of these film receive is a warning parents should believe – then there is almost nothing for families to watch together other than cartoons and the occasional gem like Dolphin Tale.

I think we have another such gem launching nationwide on Friday, Oct. 6 — The Stray. Going back to the basics, this is the story of a man and his dog, or in this case, Mitch Davis (Michael Cassidy), who is trying to live his Hollywood dreams while supporting his wife and three kids, and the stray dog that literally wanders into their lives.

Trying to make it in the movie business has increasingly taken Mitch away from being a husband and father. He suggests getting a dog to be an emotional four-legged crutch, to provide the companionship he can’t, as he works nearly 24/7 at a major studio. Before Mitch can go buy a dog, his son, Christian Davis (an older Connor Corum, who played the adorable five-year-old from Heaven is for Real), finds a dog – or it finds him – when he’s facing bullies on the playground.

This canine from nowhere comes to the boy’s rescue and follows Christian home. Since Mitch already announced the family would have a dog, he can’t see how he can say “no” to this one.

The stray, however, comes into a family in turmoil. The mom, Michelle (played by Sarah Lancaster), informs Mitch that his absence has effectively estranged his son and is putting a strain on everyone. As Mitch works to save his family, he finds an ally in their new pet. This wandering mutt stands with the Davis family, ultimately showing that sometimes a dog can save the day.

Ostensibly, The Stray is as story about a loyal pet, but it’s really a story about family. On an even deeper level, it is a metaphor about love and how true love is sacrifice, with the one who loves us the most being God. Yep, there is a healthy dose of faith in this film, but not in an over-the-top kind of way, but from the fact that the Davises are people of faith.

To be clear, The Stray is not a religious fairy tale or holy parable, since the movie is based on a true story. But, like many of the big events in our own lives, this family’s story points to a bigger truth. I know it sounds there is a lot going on in what seems like a small movie. Also, I know this is the kind of film that I think many parents may be tempted wait to watch until it reaches Redbox or Netflix. However, I would argue that if families do that, they will miss a rare treat in a moviegoing experience.

First of all, the film features beautiful footage of landscapes and vistas that just won’t have the same impact on your TV or iPad, and there are some epic moments that will definitely lose something on a small screen.

Second, we are so busy as people, that it’s rare we all get to experience something together. It’s about as rare as getting a live-action movie that a whole family can see as one.

I would take the opportunity provided by The Stray for families to spend some time together and see this in a theater, especially since it is a film that should spark some good discussion afterward.

Click here to learn more about The Stray and how your faith community, business or civic group could have a private screening on Oct. 5.

Image: Courtesy Struck Films LLC

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