Somewhere in the bowels of Mousewitz in deepest, darkest Burbank, a Disney executive is streaming Netflix’s “Goonies Lite” kid-pic “Finding ‘Ohana” and weeping into her Hermes clutch.
Take some consolation in the fact that it gets lost in the whole “treasure hunt” hook that sucks up the last half of the movie and makes it drag past two hours if you want. But this is a cute Hawaiian hoot of a comedy, too much “Indiana Jones” is a small price to pay for that.
“Goonies,” “Raiders,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” Keanu Reeves and “Drunk History” were the filmmakers’ reference points and source of running gags. They and a cast of mostly-unknowns brings wit and representation to burn in a movie about Hawaii and Hawaiians, starring a lot of Hawaiians and people of Polynesian descent.
New Yorkers Pili (Kea Peahu), brother Ioane or “E” (Alex Aiono) and nurse-mom Leilani (Kelly Hu of “Nash Bridges) are pulled back to Hawaii because Grandpa Kimo (Branscombe Richmond) is having trouble keeping out of the hospital and keeping up with the old homestead.
Pili has to miss out on geocaching camp, Ioane misses out on New York high school girls and Mom has no clue how much her Dad has fallen behind on…everything. And Kimo? He’s appalled at how little Leilani has taught his grandkids about Hawaii, how to speak and live Hawaiian.
Yes, he peppers his speech with his native tongue, talking about “wailua (spirit) and serving Spam delicacies, leaving the kids a little lost.
At least “E” has lovely local Hana (Lindsay Watson) to unimpress. And thank Lani that geocacher Pili finds an old pirate’s journal that her Grandpa has been studying for years.
All she needs is a walking encyclopedia, pale and named “Casper,” redheaded and nicknamed “Ginger Stark” by Pili’s brother, to help her solve the puzzle and find a lost treasure.
“Drunk History” kicks in with some amusing Pili-translated/narrated scenes of the pirates’ history — acted out in flashbacks starring Mark Evan Jackson, Ricky Garcia and Chris Parnell.
“Keanu” comes into play as the name of Casper’s too-handy walking stick, and in E’s irritation at trying to get New Yorkers to learn his name. “Keanu” is the “only Hawaiian name anybody knows. And he’s the WORST.”
“Keanu’s a HAWAIIAN TREASURE,” Hana shouts back. “The sadness just makes him...hotter!“
I love the inclusion of bits of Hawaiian myth (“Nightmarchers”), traditions and scenery. A visit to the scenic Kualoa Ranch Nature Preserve, a favorite filming location (“Jurassic Park,” a TV series or three) sets up a “Who comes all the way to Hawaii to see where they filmed ‘Lost?'” bit, an evisceration that only an island-dwelling nerd could deliver.
Young Miss Peahu may hit her Brooklynese a tad too hard, but she’s got spunk and screen presence. Youtube singer and actor Aiono is amusingly clutzy, and none of the cast lets the side down.
The “Goonies/Indiana Jones” cave stuff is pro forma, a real paint-by-numbers job. And it goes on for far too long. But there are jokes between the pre-ordained obstacles (spiders, cave-ins), and even a Meghan Trainor sing-along, to break up the recycling.
And as overlong as this is, in the end, here’s a final tip that contradicts that. Stay through the credits.
MPA Rating: PG, a little profanity, a smidgen of peril
Cast: Kea Peahu, Alex Aiono, Lindsay Watson, Branscombe Richmond, Owen Vaccaro, Kelly Hu and Chris Parnell
Credits: Directed by Jude Weng, script by Christina Strain. A Netflix release.
Running time: 2:03