It looks like these days all that we are given are sequels, remakes, reboots, and adaptations, prompting those who get on their high horse to shout about Hollywood lacking new and original ideas. And while there seems to be a clear profit-motivated obsession for nostalgia, it is not all ruinous. If folks continue to turn a blind eye to all things nostalgia, they will miss a treasure like Finding ‘Ohana.
Finding ‘Ohana is a film that derives inspiration from Steven Spielberg’s iconic The Goonies. While it is not a straight-up remake, it is an example of a film that not only gives us that hearty dose of nostalgia but is a new and exciting take on something we are all familiar with.
The film follows 12-year-old Pili (Kea Peahu), who is an adventure-seeking and excitable young girl. She lives in New York with her mother Leilani (Kelly Hi) and older brother Ioane (Alex Aiono), having moved there after her father’s death. After Pili’s grandfather Kimo (Branscombe Richmond) has a heart attack, the family heads to Hawaii to take care of him and find a better solution for him. It is in Hawaii that these New Yorkers rediscover their ancestral home, their ohana, and go on an epic treasure hunt.
It is impossible not to imagine the creative team of Finding ‘Ohana as young children and being absolutely obsessed with The Goonies. In fact, many generations of kids have grown up with the film. However, what Finding ‘Ohana accomplishes is looking back at the kids who adored The Goonies, and say,“I see you.”A nostalgia trip that includes everyone, specifically, those of Polynesian and Asian descent. Both Kelly Hu and Data himself Ke Huy Quan represent the diversity within Hawaii’s community.
The film is exciting and fun. It is the feel-good and emotional family adventure that reminds us of the importance of family and community. Finding ‘Ohana also pays respect to the rich and beautiful culture on an island that is more than just the place Jurassic Park and Lost were filmed. The film is accessible to all with both comedic beats that appeal to all ages, emotional bits that will have the whole family reaching for napkins and a dash of social commentary that adds a layer of relevance to the entire adventure. It is especially timely as the film emphasizes the importance of respect and dignity, not only for a place but for people as well.
Aside from the action and story, the film is beautifully put together. Director Jude Weng and cinematographer Cort Fey expertly create an inviting and exciting atmosphere. With clever filmmaking techniques to create an engaging and immersive experience, which captures the vastly breathtaking beauty of the island. Additionally, Christina Strain’s script is clever and fun, which seamlessly incorporates many of the Hawaiian natives ways of speaking and culture. Perhaps the cast had a hand in the authenticity aspects, which helps ground the story in a recognizable reality. There is a ton of grace and space given to Hawaii that makes it more than just a backdrop for an adventure. The cherry on top of the cake is the exceptional cast led by the delightful Kea Peahu as Pili. Every element in this film works to create a truly impressive, emotional, and exciting journey.
The mark of a great family adventure is that it neither belittles the intelligence of children nor dumb down essential messages. Instead, it encourages curiosity and engaging with topics like family, culture, heritage, and also grief. Finding ‘Ohana is the whole package and an instant classic if you ask me.
Finding ‘Ohana is streaming on Netflix now.
Ferdosa (she/her) is a lifetime student of cinema. Three of her current favourite films are: Addams Family Values, Cinderella (2015), and Emma. (2020). On Twitter you can see her support women-led cinema, her ongoing love/hate relationship with Disney, her totally healthy obsession with Eva Green, and her great admiration for Guillermo del Toro.