Netflix has not too long ago tried its hand at kid-tailored superhero and spy films, so it’s becoming that its subsequent kid-friendly journey follows one other well-worn style: the treasure hunt. Within the custom of the 1985 treasure-hunting traditional The Goonies, Discovering ’Ohana follows a gaggle of children braving a sequence of risks whereas looking for out a secret pirate treasure. However director Jude Weng places an up to date spin on the concept by turning the most important stakes into the children’ household dramas, and including particular notes concerning the Hawaiian tradition that defines the characters.
Although the film stretches itself too skinny with some plot factors and provides some pointless battle, Discovering ’Ohana makes use of its quest story to inform a candy story about reconnecting with household and tradition.
[Ed. Note: This review contains slight spoilers for Finding ’Ohana.]
The household journey kicks off when 12-year-old geocaching fanatic Pili (Kea Peahu) leads to Hawaii along with her mother Leilani (Kelly Hu) and her older brother Ioane (Alex Aiono) after her grandfather, Papa (Branscombe Richmond), has a coronary heart assault. Although Pili and Ioane have been each born in Hawaii, they’ve lived in Brooklyn for many of their lives. Leilani is frightened about her father, however has had some unresolved stress with him since she left the island years in the past, after her husband’s dying.
Pili is initially upset by the journey as a result of it’s conserving her away from geocaching camp. However then she discovers an outdated journal detailing hidden treasure. Together with plucky animal-lover Casper (Owen Vaccaro) and accountable teenager Hana (Lindsay Watson), Pili and Ioane begin trying to find the misplaced fortune, hoping it’d save their grandfather’s land from foreclosures.
The complicated household dynamics middle the film, although a number of the conflicts change into extra related than others. The strongest threads find yourself coming from the characters who’re collectively for a lot of the film. After a second accident, Papa is bedridden and he and Leilani combat about what meaning for his future, whereas Ioane and Pili should settle their variations whereas on a harmful quest. These arcs get nuance and weight, with no clear proper or improper. By the top, the members of the family have all come to know one another somewhat higher. Ioane and Pili really feel like actual siblings, from the very particular issues they tease one another about to the way in which they bodily combat. The treasure hunt is vital to the film, however the household dynamics give Discovering ’Ohana its coronary heart.
Much less clean, nevertheless, is the disconnect between Leilani and her children. The film hints that it has to do with their useless father, however whereas Ioane calls his mother out for not spending sufficient time with them at house, and throwing herself into work, it’s by no means even clear what her job is. Ioane and Pili really feel betrayed that their mom would take into account promoting their Brooklyn house with out consulting them, whereas Leilani feels responsible for leaving her father behind. That alone can be weighty sufficient, with out the absent, work-obsessed mom bit, which feels prefer it was added to additional complicate the feelings. However as a result of the children spend a lot of the film away from their mother, their issues don’t get resolved as neatly.
As for the treasure hunt itself, very similar to 2019’s Dora and the Misplaced Metropolis of Gold, Discovering ’Ohana manages to maintain the thrill-seeking of the archaeological journey style, but additionally interrogate a few of its uglier elements. As enjoyable because the treasure-hunting could be in adventures just like the Indiana Jones and The Mummy movie franchises, it does depend on desecrating tombs and stealing artifacts from different cultures. In Discovering ‘Ohana, this will get properly subverted: Pili and her buddies need to discover the treasure to assist save her grandfather’s land, however notice the glory and riches that aren’t vital.
They discover the hidden cave from the journal, and their trek is stuffed with pure obstacles and booby traps, creepy spiders and spooky skeletons. As Pili, Ioane, Hana, and Casper enterprise by the cave, they bond and argue and finally piece collectively the complete story behind the hidden treasure. It’s satisfying to see their banter evolve. And on the finish, Weng finds a solution to make the invention into the journey — the characters take care of the implications of stumbling onto locations they shouldn’t, and finally be taught extra about their very own Hawaiian tradition.
The film works finest when it focuses on two issues: the treasure hunt and the household story. They tie collectively superbly, with the siblings studying extra about native legends and customs and one another by their journey. However there are a handful of superfluous plot factors that aren’t handled as neatly. Ioane finds a secret Juilliard software in Hana’s automobile, which promptly disappears from the storyline, then will get introduced up for 3 seconds within the film’s third act, then dropped once more. They do finally smooch, although, as a result of positive, why not add a random teen romance? Many of the treasure hunt is thrilling, however some shoehorned stakes — like a lethal spider chunk — simply detract from the general mission. Weng and stretch the film too skinny at factors, when they need to simply zero in on the film’s central strengths.
As a result of in the long run, Discovering ’Ohana isn’t about these further plot factors. Heck, it isn’t even about discovering treasure. It’s about reconnecting with household and discovering a cultural heritage. That cultural specificity is what separates it from treasure-hunting films of the previous, the place the fun of the hunt got here from the glory of riches; in Discovering ‘Ohana, Hawaiian cultural customs and legends shade the enjoyable romp, but additionally bolster the household themes. For probably the most half, Weng weaves journey and sentimentality collectively, however when it comes all the way down to it, Discovering ’Ohana works when it focuses on the ohana at its core.
Discovering ’Ohana is now streaming on Netflix.