Finding ‘Ohana

Na Hoku Staff

Wait. Before you dismiss “Finding Ohana” as a corny kid’s adventure movie similar to “Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” know that director Jude Weng insisted on being respectful to the Hawaiian culture and respectful to her audience. 

The movie, now streaming on Netflix, follows 12-year old Pili and her older brother Ioane, who reluctantly leave their home in Brooklyn to spend their summer in Hawaii when their single mom returns to her childhood home to look after her ailing father.  

Once in Hawaii, Pili uses her geocaching skills to embark on an adventure in the caves of Kualoa Ranch with her new-found friend, a red-haired local boy named Casper, after she finds what looks to be a treasure map in her grandfather’s drawer. Throw in some family drama and a little teen romance with Ioane into the mix, and this no-profanity movie is a fun two-hour diversion.

Older viewers who remember Steven Spielberg’s 1985 movie “The Goonies” will see similarities with the stolen pirate treasure adventure plot, and the actor who played Short  Round in 1984’s  “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” has a small role. 

But what sets this movie apart from those is the seriousness with which it treats the value of family and the Hawaiian culture, from authentic dialgoue, to hula, to even a mention of Night Marchers. Several of the main actors have strong Hawaiii ties as well.

Locals will chuckle at the director’s need to include subtitles when the grandfather warns Pili about avoiding getting “lickens,” and Casper’s explanation to Pili about Kualoa Ranch as being the site where “Jurassic Park” and the TV show “Lost” were filmed, reminds us how Hawaii has served as the backdrop for some major cinematic moments.