During the summer, a big-city family out of touch with their heritage discovers new friendships and learns the importance of “ohana” as they hunt for a long-lost treasure hidden within the rural island of Oahu, Hawaii. We’ve seen this a dozen times before but, even though director Jude Weng’s Finding ‘Ohana might not be big on originality, it does make up for it by offering tons of feels and charming characters.
The Goonies meets Moana meets Dora and the Lost City of Gold meets Indiana Jones. That’s probably the best way to describe Netflix’s formulaic family-friendly adventure, a character-forward film big on cultural heritage and family dynamics.
Constantly at odds with each other, two teens, the curious Pili (Kea Peahu) and her older brother Ioane (Alex Aiono), aren’t really keen on their summer vacation away from Brooklyn. The two keep bumping heads with their mother, Leilani (Kelly Hu), and their grandfather (Branscombe Richmond), a lonely and stubborn old man whose beliefs are deeply rooted in Hawaiin culture and legacy.
When Pili and Ioane meet Casper and Hana, two natives of the island, the tweens find themselves learning more about their family heritage and the history of Oahu.
Amidst everything that is going on, the family also grieves the children’s father, who died years before while in the military. The loss weighs heavily on the heart of their widowed mother, who is considering selling everything they have back home in order to save her father’s small piece of land on the island.
Not set on moving to Hawaii, the two begin hunting for a treasure mentioned in their grandfather’s diary, supposedly hidden within nearby caves. They hope to get enough money to save their grandfather’s land and help their struggling mom with the bills.
Although Finding ‘Ohana struggles with pacing and the kids don’t really convey some of the bigger ideas at play in the story, the performances of Kelly Hu and Branscombe Richmond really bring the message home. While the film is focused on an Indiana Jones-inspired plot that includes deathly puzzles and traps, it’s in the quieter moments between Leilani and Kimo that you really feel connected to the story. Their teary-eyed exchanges cut deep and are the glue to what keeps Finding ‘Ohana together.
Again, although it’s uneven at times, there’s a lot of entertainment value in Netflix’s Finding ‘Ohana. There are plenty of laughs and good lessons to learn. It’s the perfect wholesome film to huddle up with the family for an evening of popcorn movie fun.
Finding ‘Ohana is genuinely thoughtful in the quiet moments. The Hawaiian lore, good humour and engaging adventure are just an added plus to a really good family drama.