Home Video Picks & Passes 10.25.20

New pick from Amazon Prime and a pass from Netflix.

(photo: Shutterstock)

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) — PICKS
ParaNorman (2012) — PASS

Will Smith stars as a heroic but struggling father in The Pursuit of Happyness (new on Amazon Prime), a wrenching fact-based drama about unsuccessful salesman named Chris Gardner whose marriage breaks apart and who goes broke pursuing a longshot chance at a better life.

Chris’ efforts to protect and care for his son under dire circumstances are both heartbreaking and deeply moving, and young Jaden’s matter-of-fact performance as young Christopher suggests both the resilience and vulnerability of childhood. Hard work and hope collide with hard reality and hard luck as The Pursuit of Happyness earns its title and its happy ending.

If you’ve got Netflix and you’re a fan of Laika’s stop-motion work in Coraline or Kubo and the Two Strings, you might be tempted to check out ParaNorman, a lovingly crafted Halloweenish tale of ghosts, zombies and a Puritan-era witch.

It’s not without wit and interest — certainly not a Boxtrolls-level failure — but the moral themes are more muddled here, and I can’t quite recommend it.

CAVEAT SPECTATOR: The Pursuit of Happyness: Crude language, mild profanity and an obscenity; marital discord and desertion; disturbing situations. Teens and up. ParaNorman: Pervasive creepy/scary images, including animated gore, usually played for laughs; rude humor; a few mature references including a fleeting reference to a same-sex romance. Teens and up.