Hello, Spongey here.
This time we’ve got a last minute decision for a review. This is why I left it open last time, yet I thought I’d do what I planned. The plan was to cover the 1995 TV movie The Great Mom Swamp, based on the 1986 book by Betsy Haynes of Bone Chillers fame. Yeah, I’m like that even it’s only slightly related to Goosebumps.
I even read that book just to add more to the review. Sadly, the movie didn’t give me much to work with. It was fine,but was mostly just there and wasn’t too mock-able past the first act. It’s an In Name Only adaptation so there weren’t too many comparison to be made. I thought over it and eventually decided to just ditch it, since I don’t wanna do something just because I feel like I have to. Especially when no one asked for it.
Instead, I present to you a review that should have been done ages ago. I watched this back in 2018 after hearing it about from another He Who Shall Not be Named, not the other one but he has backed that one so that’s why he gets the Voldemort treatment.
I thought it was pretty review worthy…and yet I forgot to do it. It was in the back of my head but I just forgot about it. Then when Mom Swap fell through, I thought of something I could pick easily and this came to mind. So…here we are.
This came out in 2017 and didn’t make a big splash. It failed with critics and audience and yet the internet crowd caught wind of it and spread stories of how weirdly bad it was. It’s a religious movie (sort of) but thankfully from what I recall it’s in the well meaning but baffling camp. Which is interesting as, if my copy is correct, this was a Pureflix movie. Oh yes, we finally pop that cherry.
The director did The Other Side of Heaven and its 2019 sequel. To his credit, he’s had an interesting career based on his Wikipedia page. He also wrote it along with someone with his last name, who I will assume his brother or something.
With that said, just how bad is this one? Let’s take this stray in and see.
This, is The Stray
The movie begins in Colorado in 1991, as a family is out camping. One of the kids tosses a bag and while the dramatic music building up is for the pay off, it is still hilariously overblown. That payoff is the tent being struck by lighting! Damn, that escalated quickly.
We cut to one year earlier, as we join a family that I can’t tell if it is the same one or not. I think it’s a different white bread family though. After a few minutes of the lamest sitcom ever, Dad pitches the idea of getting a dog. Mom isn’t sure and says only if a stray dog happens to show up.
Okay, now tell him also only if they win a million dollars.
“I’m not going out there and getting a dog on purpose”
“You married me on purpose”
Oh snap but what did his comment have to do with the previous one anyway? He asks the daughter to pray for a stray, so now it’s a religious movie!
“I think God has better things to do than get you a dog”
Mom is the best character.
Of course, a stray does appear. It first encounters the son as the dog appears out of nowhere to stop a bully bothering him. Damn, there’s luck than there’s that. We then abruptly cut to the kid at the principal’s office as the man is doing that thing with his hands that makes him like a bond villain. It’s hilarious.
Because this is a bad public school, the bully is not in trouble but the kid is for what the dog did. Meanwhile the dad goes to work and I guess he’s some guy working in TV or film as he’s in this room full of people decide if they should approve a script. Said script is supposed to Gilligan’s Island on Mars.
Ah yes, we needed to bring back Gilligan’s Planet.
The boss’s reaction to this is to slowly chew on the ice in his drink for some reason. You’re starting to see why I reviewed this. In the next scene with him, we get this:
“What is the vacuum cleaner’s motivation for becoming a rocket?”
Okay, I wanna watch THAT instead.
The dog and the kid form a bond and go home to meet the parents. The dog is named Pluto, and they allow it in.. I do love their reactions to seeing the dog, they totally blame themselves for this bit of fate.
And then…one year later! Wow, this movie wants to end faster than I do. Despite the time jump, the dog has failed to magically solve all their problems. The dad is working a lot and he misses his son’s baseball game or something. Yep, this movie takes place in the 90’s.
The dad and mom have a long boring talk about this. A bit later the very young daughter wanders off and they hurry to look for her. They find her in the middle of the park I guess as Pluto fights off some dog that is there. I don’t know, this scene is badly edited. Then we get back to 1991 as the family has moved to a new house further out. Oh so I assume this was the family from the opening so thus we know they will die, yay!
We then see them having dinner, and the daughters are eating like dogs. Mom doesn’t care but Dad does. This is a very odd family, like out of the worst sitcom you’ve ever seen. Dad is spending more time now but one of the sons of course is still moody about all this. Mom tries to talk to him but I’m distracted by how on the shelf in the background, I’m fairly sure I spot a Diary of a Wimp Kid book there…in what is supposed to be 1991. Whoops. It’s blurry but I am pretty sure I’m right.
We get more stuff with the dad as he tries to connect to the son even though he’s being a little shit. Seriously, dad is clearly trying here and while I get kids can be moody and whatnot, this kid is just being annoying. Dad wants to go out camping with the boys but mom has a bad feeling. Ah, she saw the opening too.
The next day, we have awkward comedy with the neighbors.
“Well, when in Rome”
“You’re not in Rome, you’re in Colorado”
This movie should come with a laugh track, I swear.
The camping trip is on, and the neighbor kids are coming but not their dad as he doesn’t like the outdoors. It was part of a dumb bit earlier. We get more sitcom humor, than a travel montage. It’s all very riveting. Eh, still better than Are we there yet. That said, the fact that we know they’re gonna die takes any tension away from all this.
Speaking of which, after some hiking they decide to set up the camp. The dog starts getting antsy so I guess it can see the future? And with that, we’re back to the present as get to see that great scene all over again. This time we see the dog jump in front of the lighting bolt and redirect it.
It is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. My recap can’t do it justice. I mean, it like passes through each of them like they all are gonna get superpowers or something.
The kids survive it okay but dad and Pluto don’t seem to be alive. The kids try to revive him, while back at home the daughter gets randomly worried and prays from the men to be okay. It goes on for a while. I get why, but if you’re gonna have God basically revive this guy, just get to it, ya know?
Sure enough, dad wakes up as God was feeling generous that day. Sadly, Pluto is dead because God has to let SOMEONE die tonight.
“Kirk crapped himself when the lightning hit his butt”
Way to liven the mood, bro. We still have 20 minutes left.I do kinda like the bit where dad tells them what to do if he doesn’t get up in the morning. Granted if he survived that he’ll live through anything but it’s a fine gesture. Then a bear approaches the tent…and it soon walks away.
That added a lot. This allows dad to monologue to the dead dog, in what he surly thought was his big Oscar moment. The next morning, Dad gets the feeling back in his body and they can finally head home. They get to a phone booth and call that neighbor guy, and I love how dad sugarcoats the whole thing. He’s just like “Eh, we ran into some bad weather so we’re going home”. But when he calls his wife..
“Honey, we got hit by lightning and Pluto is dead”
That made me laugh out loud, and it should not have.
They arrive home and everything is so dragged out. We’re almost done, just end! They bury the dog and the neighbor guy shows up and is like “…Guess it was a little more than just crazy weather”.
This movie treats everything like it’s a sitcom and I love it. The funeral goes on for a while but compared to the last few scenes, I can forgive it a little. The song they play is a bit much though. After that ends, it cuts to sometime later as that grumpy now wants to go out more and yada yada, don’t care.
Dad heads out with the son, and we zoom in on the computer he was working on. He’s writing a script and the opening of it…is the same opening this movie had. Whoa, this is too meta for me. Although I must say, if this movie is this guy’s script…perhaps work on your craft a bit more.
With that, the move ends. Somehow this had a better wrapup than most things I review.
Meh. This movie is poorly made, padded and feels more like a bad sitcom than a movie…but it’s ultimately fairly harmless. Compared to so many other religious movies, it has its heart in the right place. The religious element is really just a topping and while it is corny, it works better than some others like it.
I don’t have any real anger for this one, it’s just kinda dumb and bad. It had enough to make fun of for sure though. The core idea is fine, it just gets way too wonky in the execution. As I said, everything is written like a sitcom, even in the dramatic parts so it’s hard to take it seriously. Plus those dramatic moments get overly so even though it’s not super effective.
The attempts at humor only work ironically, and there was no real reason to set this in the 90’s and even if that worked better, that anachronism I noticed certainly made it hard to believe. Production is poor, especially with the lightning. These kind of movies tend to have low budgets though so I can’t be too harsh yet I feel it still could have been better.
Overall, it means well but is mostly rather sloppy and hard to get into unironically. Now ironically, I can enjoy it for how silly it gets some of the time. It can drag here and there but those standout moments save it. It’s far from the best ironically enjoyable movie ever but it’s worth watching with friends at least once.
So there’s that. I’m glad I finally reviewed it at least, it was certainly something. It’s pretty weak but it had some dumb fun moments and again, it’s at least well meaning so I can give it for that at least. …And yeah, that’s all I got.
That’s another review in the can. So far we’re dealt with movies that bad but not awful by any means. So next time let’s fix that with one of the worst animated sequels I’ve seen.