A group of kids track down an old pirate treasure through booby-trapped caves… in Hawaii.
Pili (Kea Peahu) is a geocacher from Brooklyn whose mother, Leilani (Kelly Hu), takes her and her brother Ioane “E” (Alex Aiono) to O’ahu for the Summer in order to help out their grandfather Kimo (Branscombe Richmond). When they arrive, Pili finds an old diary belonging to a sailor named Monks (Ricky Garcia), depicting his journey hiding a treasure after he was on a mutineering crew led by Robinson and Brown (Marc Evan Jackson and Chris Parnell). Pili, Ioane, local boy Casper (Owen Vaccaro), and Ioane’s crush Hana (Lindsay Watson) all set off on a journey to find the treasure, hopefully in time to pay off Kimo’s debts so that he can keep his home.
This was a pretty good film, even if it is almost directly a rip-off of the Goonies formula. The kids are all pretty charming and have a nice “four man band” array of personalities, so all of their interactions stay fresh and fun as they work their way through the various traps. There’s a decent amount of character depth for this kind of movie, with a number of solid emotional moments between the characters. It also does a decent job of celebrating Hawaii’s natural beauty and culture.
There is one thing that the movie does that stands out brilliantly, however, and I honestly would have wanted more of it. During multiple parts of the film, the children speculate about the motivations of the pirates, but the speculation plays out with the pirates saying and doing exactly what the kids say. It looks and feels almost exactly like an episode of Drunk History and the fact that it’s Chris Parnell and Marc Evan Jackson just makes it that much funnier.
Overall, this was a fun movie for young people and it’s not bad for anyone in general. I will say there is one thing about the film that drove me a little nuts, but it requires a Spoiler, so I’m giving you an out.
At the end of the movie, they find the treasure and find out that it’s in a tomb. According to Hawaiian tradition, whatever is left in a tomb becomes an offering to the spirits. When Ioane tries to take the treasure anyway, the flames in the tomb turn blue and a horde of Hawaiian ghosts start chasing the kids. Eventually, the kids are spared because one of the spirits was Pili and Ioane’s dead father, who keeps them safe from the other ghosts. This ending was so insane that I almost thought it ruined the movie. Nothing else in the film is supernatural and, rather than leaving this ambiguous, the movie explicitly says that Hawaiian religion is apparently correct and ghosts are real. This was not hinted at by anything in the film before that point. It was unnecessary and off-putting, but fortunately the rest of the movie was pretty good.
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