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Finding 'Ohana Movie Review - Treasure Island

 Jude Weng and Christina Strain show how to actually make a children's film.


Finding 'Ohana, the new adventure film from debutant director Jude Weng and writer Christina Strain, sets an example for making a family/children's film - the right way. Rated 7+ on Netflix, Finding 'Ohana is far more mature than the target audience it's aiming for. Fret not. Weng and Strain explore its maturity in a way that will be digestible for your kid and will not alienate you as an adult watching a children's movie. What's more? The writer and the director achieve all this without dumbing down the movie.

Pili (Kea Peahu) is a bona fide treasure hunter with a penchant for decoding clues and exploring locked rooms. In an early sequence, she figures out the combination of a locker leading to a win in a treasure-hunting competition. It also means a trip to the Geocache Camp for further games and explorations. However, plans change when her grandfather, Kimo (Branscombe Richmond), gets a heart attack. So instead of Geocache Camp, Pili - along with mother Leilani (Kelly Hu) and brother Ioane (Alex Aiono) - arrives at her grandfather's house in Oahu. The house has no Wi-Fi, which is not less than a nightmare for this e-generation. 

After a brief introduction with Kimo, Pili discovers a padlocked, abandoned bus-cum-storage room inside which she uncovers a treasure book. Well, it's a journal written by "some dude named Monks." Anyway, it's a guide for a treasure hunt that points to a mountain. When Kimo is admitted after another attack and Leilani decides to stay with him in the hospital, Pili seizes the opportunity to go for the hunt. She is joined by Casper (Owen Vaccaro), a young local boy whose contacts help them get a ride at a location where apparently the series Lost was filmed. One of the other reasons for this hunt - apart from Pili's ceaseless curiosity - is to use the treasure for paying off Kimo's debts so that his house is not seized. If that happens, Kimo would have to move to Brooklyn with Leilani and the children. Kimo doesn't want that. Another alternative is to sell the Brooklyn house, use the money to cover up the debt, and permanently stay in Oahu. The children don't want that. You see, the treasure would solve all the problems. 

Ioane doesn't care for her intentions. Neither does he believe in the existence of a treasure. He is just peeved by the fact that his younger sister - without consent - took his smartphone and truck for a goose chase. Now Ioane, along with Casper's friend Hana (Lindsay Watson), goes after them. "I know you're at Kualoa, Pili, and when I find you, I'll kill you," says Ioane. The line calls back to Taken. This is just one of the many movie/pop culture references you will see in Finding 'Ohana. Names like Jurassic Park and Lost are thrown around. The whole adventure in the hidden tombs and mountains recalls Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider (the former is openly referenced). There is no need to tell you for whom the word "breathtaking" is used in the film.   

Pili and Ioane's bond is filled with yawping and squawking, which can be extrapolated to almost all the siblings. Contradicting it is the simpatico relationship between Casper and Hana. Ioane attempts to scare Pili with nightmarcher malarkey; Hana stands up for Casper when someone responds rudely to him. Ioane yells at Pili when she causes trouble; Hana gently comforts Casper in the same situation. Ioane releases his frustrations during parlous circumstances, demotivating the youngsters. Hana tries to be optimistic and hides her fears, concentrating more on incentivizing the children. We come to know why Ioane reacts this way. Growing up without a father and a busy mother had removed parental care from his young life. It molded him into a responsible, tough guy who started managing the household chores (doing dishes, washing clothes, etc.). Thankfully, Pili is at her early age experimenting with life. She is unrestricted to new things. Her youthful curiosity invites her to explore the unknown. At her age, teens are still in the process of developing a personality. Pili is slowly being influenced by her brother. You can spot it in the handshake, which does not involve shaking but hitting on the palm extended for greeting. There is little doubt that Pili must have learned this method from Ioane. A few years more, and she might even start behaving like him. Feelings of empathy are enshrouded within Ioane. Like Pili's treasures, they need to be buried out. 

As the gang enters deep into the tombs and caves, they encounter thrilling pieces along with skeletons. By bending, crawling, swimming, they overcome one challenge after another. Everyone works as a team, supporting and contributing according to their capabilities. A bridge built on top of the lava, an area, filled with luminous Dinoflagellates, are two notable attractions. The flashbacks use the voices of the narrator(s), making it hilarious to watch. The leads are charming. They change pages from quirky to pensive with ease. The real threat is (rightly) hidden from the sights. Until its reveal, we are fed with spooky imaginations. This proves how good the filmmakers are. Whether the treasure is real or not is something you might not ask after googling Ohana. Or you may realize that the real treasure is the gift of having a family. Worry not, Finding 'Ohana will not leave you hanging. It will deliver on its promises.  

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from Movie Reviews https://moviesinmydna.blogspot.com/2021/02/finding-ohana-movie-review-treasure.html
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