Netflix’s ‘Finding ‘Ohana’ attempts to capture the essence of a family drama in the middle of a mystical adventure. However, it misses the mark when it comes to giving a hair-raising experience, often expected from an adventure movie.
Finding ‘Ohana is a Jude Weng directorial adventure film riveting around a tween girl Pili (Kea Peahu), her brother Ioane (Alex Aiono), their mother and grandfather Leilani and Kimo, played by Kelly Hu and Branscombe Richmond respectively. The movie also features Owen Vaccaro and Lindsay Watson in the role of Casper and Hana.
The movie begins with a short glimpse of Pili’s nerve-wracking geocaching competition on the overly crowded streets of New York City. As much as she was elated to win a Geocache trip, her grandfather’s bad health runs over her plans, and the family comes to O’ahu, Hawaii to take care of Kimo.
Kimo is a proud Hawaiian, resentful of his daughter for moving to the city and abandoning her Hawaiian roots. It is later revealed that Leilani leaves to escape from her own pain and trauma of losing a loving husband.
In no time, Pili finds an old dusty journal hidden in her grandfather’s art studio. The journal is written in Spanish (glad, Pili had learnt Spanish) with Hawaiian transcribing stuck on its edges. She is intrigued to come across such a mystifying journal and attempts to decipher it.
Despite fearful local fables about Hawaiian warriors (or Night Marchers) and warnings from her grandfather, Pili vows to solve the incomplete information mentioned in the journal about a treasure to save her family from a financial crisis.
Casper joins her on this quest and is later joined in by Ioane and Hana. On a parallel, the storyline gradually runs into ‘Dora the Explorer’ mode with hints of ‘Moana’ energy.
Kea Peahu as Pili is balmy to watch throughout the film. She resonates a lot with her on-screen grandfather, Kimo. Peahu excels in her portrayal of a true Hawaiian inquisitive and determined 12 year-old-girl.
Ioane or E, played by Alex Aiono has done a fairly good job and completely fits into the role of an elder brother while fighting his little sister and as a regular American lad trying to impress a girl. His character strikes balance when at the end he accepts his heritage and stops running away from it.
Owen Vaccaro and Lindsay Watson are a treat to watch as Casper and Hana respectively. The two in a way become ideal role models for Pili and E, as they proudly resonate with heir Hawaiin heritage, culture and identity.
Kimo, played by Branscombe Richmond, stands out in his mature yet stubborn old man who worries about his lineage and guards his Hawaiian heritage with a brave face and pride.
Kelly Hu as Leilani, unknowingly embarks on a journey when she gets to Hawaii and comes across her insecurities and fears, she has been running away from for years. Hu completely gets into the skin of a single mother and a caring daughter steering to strike balance.
The movie, for sure, manages to capture the magnificent beauty of Hawaii and its tropical suburbs. This adds to the overall aesthetic of the mystical adventure and sets a contrast between Pili and Ioane’s lifestyles.
Following the essence of the title, the movie efficiently captures the importance of family, companionship and respect for ancient traditions which often gets lost in the hectic city lives.
The movie may serve as a delightful watch for tweens and early teens together with their parents. While the movie may be a fresh watch for the kids, references from Indiana Jones and The Goonies may hit right at the nostalgic chord of adults.
It is definitely heartwarming to see their distorting lives come full circle with the spirit of Pili and E’s dead father visiting their family and their moving back to Hawaii.
While the movie celebrates Hawaiian heritage and familial values, 120 minutes of running time make it quite lethargic to sit through. There are times when scenes appear to be exaggerated with no extraordinary purpose to serve to the storyline.
The adventure movie fails to give a hair-raising experience with its predictable and limited approach towards its plot development. This snatches away the spirit of the plot.
The film is a family drama and an adventure flick at the same time which seems as if the makers of the movie were trying to ride two boats at the same time. It is a great concept but the execution falters.
The spider-bite injury on E seemed like an added burden on an already fatiguing narrative. With no real purpose to fulfil, the plot would have worked the same without it.
Finding ‘Ohana is a pleasant watch for younger audiences but may not suit the entertainment palettes of adolescents and adults. Apart from its tropical beauty and occasional adventure and family vibes, there’s not much it has to offer.