‘Finding ‘Ohana’: Say aloha to Netflix’s newest family adventure flick

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With winter well underway and the cold weather showing no signs of stopping, especially now that Punxsutawney Phil has predicted six more weeks of winter, many New Englanders understandably are wishing for warmer weather and far-off vacation destinations. Netflix’s newest feature film, “Finding ‘Ohana,” transports viewers to the lush paradise of the Hawaiian Islands in a way never seen before. Much in the tradition of “Indiana Jones” and “The Goonies,” the movie takes a rag-tag group of explorers and sets them on a journey to unlock all of the secrets of the mysterious island of O’ahu. 

“Finding ‘Ohana” follows the quest of 12-year-old Brooklynite, Pili (Kea Peahu), a geocaching genius who enjoys nothing more than solving riddles and hunting for clues in her hometown of New York City. The film begins with Pili and her friend competing in a geocaching championship, outsmarting their adversaries to win the prize of a summer in the Catskills at geocaching camp. This will certainly be Pili’s best summer yet! 

“Much in the tradition of “Indiana Jones” and “The Goonies,” the movie takes a rag-tag group of explorers and sets them on a journey to unlock all of the secrets of the mysterious island of O’ahu.”

Pili’s plans come crashing down when Pili’s mother Leilani (Kelly Hu) informs Pili and her irritable teenage brother Ioane (Alex Aiono) that they must forego their summer plans to visit their ailing grandfather Kimo (Branscombe Richmond) in rural, off-the-grid O’ahu at the family farm. With summer camp now out of the picture, Pili is devastated, until a mysterious journal found in her grandfather’s belongings puts Pili and her brother on a quest to find gold left by explorers and swashbucklers hundreds of years ago. With the help of two lovable locals: the friendly and quirky Casper (Owen Vaccaro), and headstrong Hanna (Lindsay Watson), the team follows the clues to uncover centuries of Hawaiian history, all while battling the many dangers that the island possesses. 

In the end, Pili and Ioane find a treasure much more precious and valuable than the gold and silver they sought to uncover, which is by no means a spoiler as the title of the movie explicitly states what they will find on their journey. 

The film does a particularly strong job of showcasing the beautifully vibrant native Hawaiian culture, which rarely sees the representation it deserves in a cinema setting. Various Hawaiian traditions and folklores are used to drive the story forward, and play an integral part in the film’s resolution. Audiences have the ability to learn about Hawaiian culture through Pili and Ioane’s discovery of their family’s heritage.  

“arious Hawaiian traditions and folklores are used to drive the story forward, and play an integral part in the film’s resolution. Audiences have the ability to learn about Hawaiian culture through Pili and Ioane’s discovery of their family’s heritage.”

The movie’s script even includes elements of the Hawaiian dialect, with words taken from Filipino, Japanese, Chinese and native Hawaiian languages to create an realistic depiction of O’ahu slang. While I will admit that the deliverance of these particular phrases at times seemed forced and unnatural, I still must applaud the effort made by the production team as it shows they have done their homework. 

“Finding ‘Ohana” is a family movie at its core, so it should be noted that many of the jokes and references are aimed toward children. That being said, it is still an enjoyable and feel-good movie for all as the overall message of the movie is applicable to all ages. Plus, the sheer amount of action and adventure taking place in Hawaii will quench the thirst of travel for any deprived vacationer left with cabin fever by the ongoing pandemic and the ruthless New England cold. All in all, “Finding ‘Ohana” will leave you with a smile on your face and some aloha in your heart, and therefore is a must-watch this February. 

Rating: 4/5 

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