For years there has been speculation about a sequel to 1985 family classic The Goonies, and to this point nothing has ever eventuated from that speculation. That is likely due to the fact that no subsequent story could possibly rival its unadulterated sense of adventure. But most surprising of all is the lack of kid-heavy treasure-hunt movies that followed in its wake.
Finding ‘Ohana is a new Netflix original that not only follows in The Goonies‘ footsteps, it’s a near a carbon copy of it. From its very premise to all of the marker points along the way, it is essentially Goonies 2.0 with Hawaii standing in for Oregon, and it’s completely self-aware of the fact.
This adventure tells the story of a twelve-year-old girl named Pili (Kea Peahu), an avid Geocacher (a real-life recreational scavenger hunt-themed activity) who visits Hawaii with her mother and older brother to spend time with her grandfather. Whilst rummaging through boxes, she discovers an old maritime journal that once belonged to notorious pirates. Within its pages are clues to a hidden treasure, and with the help of another 12-year-old friend, Casper (Owen Vaccaro), her brother Ioane (Alex Aiono) and a local girl named Hana (Lindsay Watson), the intrepid group set upon a quest to solve the mystery of a Peruvian pirate ship.
Again, Finding ‘Ohana makes no effort in hiding its influences and, in turn, embraces the similarities. The Hawaiian setting makes for an appealing new backdrop and with a strong cultural undertone, first-time director Jude Wend does manage to highlight a few distinguishable nuances. Local superstitions and lore play a part in their adventure, and when it comes time for these kids to make important moral choices, heritage is key.
The production design is very impressive and, without question, models itself on The Goonies (and yes, I have plenty more mentions of the classic film to come). The tunnels and booby traps, the skull-shaped caves, and the slides and caverns that guide these kids have all been taken from Richard Donner and Steven Spielberg’s seminal classic. Admittedly, there is an instinct to criticise the movie based on this alone, yet one cannot help but feel nostalgic and grateful to have a movie of its type. I also subscribe to the theory that if we celebrate the numerous Indiana Jones knock-off movies, why not a Goonies one?
The movie’s strongest suite is its young cast, with the very impressive Kea Peahu leading the charge in her feature debut. She exudes all of the right mannerisms of a thrill-seeking tween and has a natural screen presence. Young Owen Vaccaro (The House with the Clock in Its Walls) is also impressive as the culturally astute mate with a vast knowledge of the area and its history. Both of them resist the natural urge to play on precociousness, which makes their adventure all the more enjoyable. The rest of the cast are adequate, though none particularly stand out above the rest.
Original Goonies and Temple of Doom star Ke Huy Quan also features in a bit-part that has no purpose aside from being a shameless throwback reference. Where the movie threatens to fall apart is its 123-minute duration. No movie of this sort needs be that long. Had the makers removed 20 minutes from either end, they would be left with a very snappy and thrilling adventure. Instead, we are given an unnecessary amount of family drama and cultural learnings that may effectively bore kids before the fun starts. Furthermore, the final act, beyond the discovery (and logical conclusion) ventures into a mystical arena, which is likely to have folks switching off before the credits roll (and leaving the movie suspended in the viewer’s “Continue Watching” list on Netflix).
Finding ‘Ohana may trigger some Gen X-ers who cite The Goonies as the go-to movie of their youth and fill them with a familiar sense of nostalgia. The target audience, however, is Gen-Alpha, whose knowledge of may not reach back to the mid 80s. They should come to Finding ‘Ohana without any preconceived notions and ought to respond favourably. Having said that, if their parents are doing their job right, they will have introduced them to The Goonies before they could even walk.
‘Finding ‘Ohana’ is now streaming on Netflix and can be watched HERE.