A lot or a little?
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Finding 'Ohana celebrates Hawaiian language and culture in an adventure tale about two siblings discovering their family heritage and forging their own identities. The pair embark on a treasure hunt that sends them and two friends into perilous situations involving venomous spider bites, boiling lava pits, steep cliffs, tumbling waterfalls, collapsing floors, falling rocks, and frightening spirits known as nightmarchers. Perhaps the most intense scene is when a teen nearly drowns and needs CPR. In other sequences, tweens race through city traffic and buildings on bikes in a geocaching race, and an elderly man falls and breaks a rib soon after suffering a heart attack. Historical re-creations show pirates dueling with swords and knives; skeletons discovered in their place suggest they all perished. Expect a bit of sibling quarreling, as well as teen flirtation that ends with a single kiss. The characters show each other compassion in various ways. Language includes name-calling (lots of "butt"-related terms), anatomical humor/references ("balls," "nips" for nipples, "bunghole," "turd," etc.), and other terms like "crap," "suck," "ass," "God," "stupid," "jeez," and "hell."
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What's the story?
In FINDING 'OHANA, 12-year-old Pili (Kea Peahu) is forced to give up a hard-earned prize of geocaching summer camp when her grandfather (Branscombe Richmond) suffers a heart attack and her mom (Kelly Hu) decides they'll travel to visit him in Hawaii. There, Pili discovers an old diary that describes a hidden pirate treasure somewhere on the island. When it's revealed that Grandpa is in serious debt, Pili convinces her new young friend Casper (Owen Vaccaro) to set off to find the treasure to help her grandfather out. Her brother Ioane (Alex Aiono) and local teen Hana (Lindsay Watson) follow close on their tail, and the foursome find themselves in a mysterious, skeleton-filled cave searching for gold. Along the way, the siblings also discover their devotion to each other and their deep connection to their own Hawaiian heritage.
Is it any good?
This rollicking adventure has lots of appeal. What kid hasn't dreamed of going on a treasure hunt? Finding 'Ohana takes that premise and layers it into a good-natured tale of cultural identity, family ties, and swashbuckling adventure. The action is spearheaded by four likable young actors who look like they're having a ball playing the outspoken tomboy Pili, big brother Ioane, sensitive Casper, and kind Hana. The boys especially stand out in the cast for their comical timing. Aiono, who's known for his music on YouTube, could have a future in comedy if he wants one. Scenes where the kids substitute the voices for adult pirates acting out an imagined history are clever and silly.
Repeated references in the script to Indiana Jones are no mistake: The action is clearly inspired by the landmark franchise. In fact, a supporting character in 'Ohana is played by Ke Huy Quan, who co-starred as a child in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Hawaii is resplendent in its lush green vegetation, sharp peaks, and turquoise waters. Its natural beauty is on display as much as certain cultural aspects and its language, which characters frequently speak to one another. Sure, there are moments that feel overly didactic and others that are totally implausible, and some families could be turned off by some of the language, but overall this is a sweet and fun family movie with positive messages.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what they learned about Hawaiian culture from Finding 'Ohana. What about the local language? How could you learn more?
How do Pili and Ioane's attitudes toward their heritage evolve over the course of the film, and why? Can you relate their experience to your own family in any way? If so, how?
Have you seen any other movies that center on treasure hunts? What's the appeal of this popular plotline?
- On DVD or streaming: January 29, 2021
- Cast: Kea Peahu, Alex Aiono, Kelly Hu
- Director: Jude Weng
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Pirates
- Character strengths: Compassion
- Run time: 123 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: language, crude references, adventure action and some suggestive comments
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: December 20, 2021
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