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HAWAIIAN VACATION (2011) (***)

TOY STORY's story is not over. Pixar has decided to extend the franchise in a series of shorts, this one being the first. Woody and the gang are preparing for some R&R as their new owner Bonnie is headed off on a Hawaiian family vacation over the winter break. Stowed away in the little girl's backpack are Ken and Barbie, who are extremely disappointed when they discover they're at Bonnie's house and not a luau on the beach. So in order to rescue the couple's first vacation together, the rest of the toys team up to bring paradise to a preschooler's bedroom.

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TOY STORY's story is not over. Pixar has decided to extend the franchise in a series of shorts, this one being the first. Woody and the gang are preparing for some R&R as their new owner Bonnie is headed off on a Hawaiian family vacation over the winter break. Stowed away in the little girl's backpack are Ken and Barbie, who are extremely disappointed when they discover they're at Bonnie's house and not a luau on the beach. So in order to rescue the couple's first vacation together, the rest of the toys team up to bring paradise to a preschooler's bedroom.

Director Gary Rydstrom, who received an Oscar nod for his hilarious Pixar short LIFTED, brings his great timing to this film as well. While his other short relied on pitch perfect physical comedy, he brings the same sensibility to this talkier piece. Even though the script for this short has a lot more dialogue, the jokes are many sight gags. He knows exactly how to lay the joke out to maximize the laugh. Even when a joke is expected, he knows how to give it a twist in order to elicit a chuckle.

None of the Pixar shorts based on their features have been as good as their classics like GERI'S GAME or PRESTO, but this is the best of them. In addition to being funny, it also has a nicely contained story, instead just being a series of gags like MIKE'S NEW CAR or JACK-JACK ATTACK. But then the others were not based on TOY STORY nor did they have Pixar's sweet, innocent and retro take on Mattel's toy icons Barbie and Ken. What a sweet couple. Will they ever kiss?

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Rick DeMott
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