REVIEW: Hawaiian Vacation [2011]

Score: 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: G | Runtime: 6 minutes | Release Date: June 24th, 2011 (USA)
Studio: Pixar Animation Studios / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Director(s): Gary Rydstrom
Writer(s): Gary Rydstrom, Jason Katz & Erik Benson / Erik Benson & Christian Roman (story)

“I just zip and unzip. I don’t fly.”

Upon seeing Buzz and Woody onscreen for the Pixar short playing before Cars 2, my first feeling was disappointment. These abbreviated tales are sometimes the highlight of going to a family friendly animated film, generally heartfelt and funny in a minimal span of time to get audiences in the mood for the feature following. Instead of some new carefully constructed character—Presto and Geri’s Game—or a well-conceived, dialogue-free vignette—Lifted and the brilliant Day & Night—all we were to be given was Toy Story 3 redux? I just left that world last summer.

Hawaiian Vacation begins much like the series’ films as Woody (Tom Hanks) prepares the rest of the toys for a vacation from humans as new owner Bonnie readies to leave with her family. It appeared we were in for a brief rehash of what we’ve seen before until the little girl’s backpack opens on the floor and out pops Barbie (Jodi Benson) and Ken (Michael Keaton), dressed and ready for sand and sun. And this is where my smile arrived, the recollection of how wonderfully realized this pair of plastic beauties were. Keaton’s cadence is perfection, his glee in anticipation of palm trees and ocean palpable, the dejection when the other toys tell him he’d been left behind devastating—and hilarious as he zips up the backpack to cry in isolation.

Ken had the whole week planned on a crayon-numbered brochure, events all leading up to his and Barbie’s first kiss. Hawaii was to be a romantic getaway and now all those hopes were crushed. Well, until we remember that this is Toy Story. Woody and Buzz (Tim Allen) do few things better than propping up friends and making bad situations work. So they decorate Bonnie’s room, pull on costumes, and orchestrate a day the two Mattel dolls will never forget. With candy necklace leis, kitty litter sand, and some Latino flavor courtesy of Spanish Buzz—although I’m not quite sure this part is necessarily appropriate for our 50th state—these lovebirds get to forget the dreary winter of snow out their window.

Everyone has returned and for a mere six minutes, Hawaiian Vacation somehow manages to give each the right amount of screen time to remind us how great all are. The hilarity of Toy Story 3 isn’t forgotten and the laughs are big here too. With guys like Don Rickles voicing the acerbic Mr. Potato Head and Keaton’s manic imbecility as Ken, how could they not? The toy camera ‘ka-chicks’, three-eyed aliens don grass skirts, and glow sticks double as torches in a fun ‘fire’ show at dinner. Barbie and Ken are the consummate couple and no matter how vapid both are, their love is bolstered and the rest of the toys sit back to bask in its emanating joy. Leave it to Pixar to show us that Hawaii can exist anywhere, as long as we remember the place doesn’t make the feelings we have towards our loved ones. They do.

[2] (L-R) Mrs. Potato Head (voiced by Estelle Harris), Barbie (voiced by Jodi Benson), Ken (voiced by Michael Keaton), Aliens, Jessie (voiced by Joan Cusack), Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen). ©Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved. ‘MR. POTATO HEAD, MRS. POTATO HEAD and BARREL OF MONKEYS are trademarks of Hasbro used with permission. © Hasbro. All right All rights reserved.’

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