Finding ‘Ohana

Netflix’s adventure flick Finding ‘Ohana is a Hawaiian twist on the classic 80s kids caper The Goonies.  It’s a movie connection the filmmakers want you to be aware of either through easter eggs (casting Ke Huy Quan who played Data in The Goonies, another character bellowing “hey you guys!”), or in the film’s direct lifting of an undoubtably similar story following young adventurers pursuing hidden treasure. 

When filmmakers acknowledge their blatant borrowing of other influences, their movies get criticized nonetheless for a lack of originality – I’ve been guilty of laying on flack.  In early scenes of Finding ‘Ohana, that fate was almost written in the stars.  But rather than being a copycat, Finding ‘Ohana subverts the expectation by infuding the narrative with Hawaiian culture around fresh characters who are outgoing in their own fish-out-of-water ways.

The initial treasure hunt begins on some cutesy notes as city siblings Pili (Kea Peahu) and Ioane (musician Alex Alono) adjust to their new tropical setting from the streets of Brooklyn.  Peahu and Alono, both amateur actors, have natural chemistry as siblings, and land their own amusing banter with family and the local community.  When intrepid geocacher Pili discovers the island’s history of hidden treasure (cutaways featuring Marc Evan Jackson and Chris Parnell, hilariously disguised and out of their element), she’s eager to seize a new adventure to benefit her humble yet financially desperate grandfather (Branscombe Richmond), a resident islander with a deep heritage connection.

While the movie sometimes resembles an upcoming season of Netflix’s gameshow Floor Is Lava, these extravagant set pieces and the fun sense of adventure successfully transition Finding ‘Ohana from being a cute kids movie into an exciting romp everyone can get wrapped up in – all while maintaining its family-friendly status.  The film’s final reveal, which should stay a surprise, is when the film turns into a thriller-bordering-on-horror for its ending.  It was a pleasant surprise that compliments the film’s cultural input as well as the versatility of director Jude Weng and screenwriter Christina Strain. 

At-home viewers will discover a gem by checking out Finding ‘Ohana.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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