FINDING ‘OHANA (2021) successfully harnesses the heart and soul of The Goonies

Now this is how you remake a much-loved classic movie… you don’t. Finding ‘Ohana has taken the heart and soul of what made films like The Goonies so memorable and applied that to a new story with new characters – allowing it to forge its own path. The film follows Pili who, after travelling to O’ahu with her family, embarks on an epic adventure to uncover the mystery behind some long lost treasure.

With a simple premise and relatively familiar outline, what sets this film apart from the rest is the way it highlights and explores Hawaiian culture through every facet of the story. The hunt for treasure may be the obvious central arc but, as the title suggests, it’s the themes of family, love, heritage that carry the film forward and are the driving force of the plot. This focus brings a tonne of heart to the film and makes it very emotionally poignant in some key moments. It’s also very well executed and integrated, never feeling like it’s being thrown in your face – rather, it’s all quite natural in how it’s explored. To combat some of the emotional and thematic elements, there’s some light family-friendly humour to fill the gaps. Nothing too hilarious, but it’s all a nice touch.

The journey itself is a very fun one, featuring some great fast-paced adventure sequences that make the whole treasure hunting arc exciting. Being a very similar idea to The Goonies, it feels like a spiritual successor to that film – touching on the relevant themes that are present in that film. It’s clear throughout this adventure that Finding ‘Ohana is paying homage to The Goonies, and doing so really well. The added thematic touches and story elements in here do well to differentiate the two, crafting something that is both similar to the thing we love and refreshingly new. It must also be noted that younger audiences won’t be going into this with knowledge of The Goonies, so for them this is a new experience that they can embrace for the first time. This really is a worthy adventure for the whole family.

Kea Peahu puts in an inspired performance as Pili, the lead of the story and driving force in the treasure-hunting adventure. It’s clear from the get-go that she’s just having fun in the role and being a kid – not focusing so much on the dramatic tear-jerking moments and just embracing that wholesome idea of kids going on an adventure. Alex Aiono plays Pili’s older brother, Ioane, and he’s ok. I didn’t love his character, but it’s more the fault of casting directors than it is a fault in his performance. It feels as though he’s acting much younger than he appears, which comes across as purely silly, then there are moments where he’s a little more mature, making his character feel all over the place. The more experienced Kelly Hu and Branscombe Richmond are both awesome in their respective roles. They’re the supporting characters that bring the most heart and life to the narrative other than Pili.

In the end, Finding ‘Ohana is a joyous ride and a fun treasure-hunting adventure. It takes a minute to really kick off, but once it gets going it’s a blast. The themes of family, home and love, and the way Hawaiian heritage plays a core part in the story is what makes this film as good as it is. It captures the spirit of The Goonies in fine fashion and executes it all really well. Fun for the whole family, it’s an easy watch with plenty of heart, some laughs and all the Goonies-esque fun you could want.

7.9/10

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