Directed by Jude Weng, “Finding ‘Ohana” is a Netflix original released on Jan. 29. It follows the story of two teenage siblings from Brooklyn that connect with their Hawaiian heritage. Starring Kea Peahu, Alex Aiono and Kelly Hu, this film focuses more on trends than its original idea of highlighting Hawaiian heritage.
“Finding ‘Ohana” tries to celebrate Hawaiian customs and does to some extent, but the film lacks in every other category of originality. Its story is very similar to “The Goonies,” directed by Richard Donner, and is a bit of a letdown due to its lack of creativity. The story is incredibly basic and has been told many times before in different ways — the most recent Netflix original series “Outer Banks” being a prime example — and “Finding ‘Ohana” is no different. The film’s plot has the occasional twist, but the predictable aspects didn’t require much engagement. The story also was not constructed smoothly, and many different scenes felt as if they were scattered all over the place, making the film seem dreadingly slow in its two hours and three minutes of storytelling.
Since the film’s foundation is to highlight Hawaiian culture, there is significant diversity throughout the film. This is a refreshingly new way to tell a story and had a lot of great potential. Throughout the film, the camera work is also exceptional, and every scene has nice clear shots and camera movement to justify the story. The landscape scenes are one of the best characteristics that make it more enjoyable. The film also highlights different scenes that introduce the lifestyle of past generations that have lived in the great state of Hawaii, which is an insightful perspective anyone can appreciate.
The film's cast does not scream “A-list” or even “B-list” acting. As the main character Pili, Peahu’s performance’s most challenging aspect is to watch her overemphasize many of her scenes and how overbearing her character comes across. Other actors in the film did not benefit from some of their characters’ lines, but actors like Aiono and Hu work with what they are given and present us with a decent performance. Writer Christina Strain disappointed in a few areas when it came to dialogue, specifically when conversations came across as boring or too cringy to watch. The film’s dialogue is easy enough to follow, and the conversations that arose within the characters were sufficient.
This film is not sophisticated enough to entertain adults but seems targeted towards children with its attention-grabbing, modern-day technology and trends. “Finding ‘Ohana'' is not necessarily a celebration of heritage but more of a feel-good movie that doesn’t exactly feel good to watch.