Pili (Kea Peahu) is Hawaiian born but Brooklyn raised, a competitive pre-teen geo-cacher who chases treasure all over New York City with her best friend. They’re so good they win a trip to a geo-cache summer camp in the Catskills, which makes Pili the only person in the history of the world to be mad about going to Hawaii on summer break. But her grandfather’s had a heart attack and mom insists.
Mom Leilani (Kelly Hu) left Hawaii when her husband died, but with her father Kimo (Branscombe Richmond) struggling physically and financially, she’s beginning to wonder if a move back to the family land is in order. Her kids Pili and Ioane (Alex Aiono) aren’t super excited by this news, as you can imagine, but Hawaii grows on Pili exponentially when she finds a journal detailing long-lost pirate booty. It’s like real-life geo-caching, with centuries-old Spanish gold as the prize! If they can find it, that is. Pirates are pretty shrewd when it comes to this stuff. Luckily Pili’s got a treasure map and a new friend named Casper (Owen Vaccaro) to help her navigate it. We get some stunning Hawaiian views and a genuine adventure not unlike The Goonies. Pili and Casper are joined by Ioane and new friend Hana (Lindsay Watson), and the foursome will encounter peril and mystery as they negotiate unknown and possibly haunted cave systems. Pirates are pretty serious about protecting the treasure they bury. Soon even the kids realize they’re in danger, but the only way out is forward, no matter how many dead bodies warn them away.
Finding ‘Ohana is a delightful family film and a throwback to epic action-adventures fit for kids. With grown-up stakes and real-life threats, the kids search for treasure but instead (or also?) find a connection to the land and to their heritage. Director Jude Weng knows the true treasure is friendship, and these bonds will only be strengthened throughout the film – perhaps even belabouring the fact, if we’re being honest. The film doesn’t really need to be two hours long. But it’s charming and well-made, with set pieces to impress and entertain, and stunning visuals you won’t get tired of admiring. The young actors are surprisingly excellent and the story is character-driven. It’s a fun film your family will surely enjoy this weekend, and on repeated viewings in the future.