Geocache champion Pilialoha “Pili” Kawena, age 12, is abruptly lifted from her busy New York life and dropped into rural O‘ahu to help care for her grandfather. Initially skeptical about her new surroundings, Pili finds a cryptic pirate’s journal in her Papa’s studio hinting at a 200-year-old shipwrecked treasure hidden away in the island’s caves and mountains. With her older brother and new friends in tow she uses her clue solving skills to lead them on an adventure of a lifetime through the natural wonders of Hawaiʻi. As she learns to respect and love her native culture she also discovers not all secrets should be shared and that the real treasure in life is ‘ohana – her family.
Finding ‘Ohana is a fun combination of The Goonies, Indiana Jones, and Pirates of the Caribbean! In fact, one of the adults in the movie is actor Ke Huy Quan, who played the character of Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Set in O’ahu, Hawaii, the heroes of this story are the kids, although an important adult member of the family helps out in an amazing way.
The film opens with a lot of action, with several teens racing bikes in a competition. But soon the bike race will seem like kid stuff when several of them, including siblings from Brooklyn, connect with their Hawaiian heritage and wind up in search of long-lost Spanish treasure in a cave, hidden there by pirates.
The teens occasionally utter typical teen phrases, like, “Shut up”, “crap”, and even “I hate you,” but it becomes obvious that when the chips are down they are there for one another.
Mom Leilani (Kelly Hu) is concerned about her kids, but Ioane, Pili, and the rest of the intrepid little band including Hana, Casper, and Monks will find a way to deal with the danger they soon encounter in their search for treasure.
One thing that keeps the picture grounded– despite some of the mysticism and fantastic plot– is the realistic relationship between brother and sister and a budding romance between Ione and Hanna… but a spider bite leaves Ioane with a terrible looking and huge blister on his hand-and the possibility of death. When he falls into the water and passes out, things look rather grim.
We are treated to an energetic duel of swords by pirates in a flashback and the kids deal with counter-weights– with one of them having had the rope cut, which makes the entrance to the cave pretty much impossible. But who cut the rope of the counter-weight?
Despite some of the near-death encounters and mysticism of the story, there are scenes of humor peppered in the film too. In one scene, Ioane attempts to kiss Hanna, who obviously likes him, but she sticks a phone between their lips and suggests they take a selfie. So, they take one with the entire gang. The teens finally find the tombs and lavish gold, including tiaras, but is it wrong to remove the treasure? Could it be they will suffer a terrible price if they do?
And was the kids’ dad a real warrior who actually still lives beyond this life? Who are the night marchers? The film features not only adventure and comedic moments but a touching one, when the kids send out braided vine into the water in remembrance of their deceased dad.
Due to some crude language and mild violence, this film isn’t for young children. However, the romance, adventure, and fun are awarded our Dove Seal for Ages 12+.
The Dove Take:
If you’re ready for adventure, comedy, a bit of romance (and a few scary scenes) this is the movie for you!