61* (HBO Max)
In 1961, New York Yankees’ Roger Maris (Barry Pepper) and Mickey Mantle (Thomas Jane) race to break Babe Ruth’s 1927 single-season home run record.
Why It’s Worth Watching If You Love Billy Crystal: Admittedly, Billy Crystal’s directorial filmography can leave something to be desired. His ambitious debut, Mr. Saturday Night, didn’t quite stick the landing, and his sophomore film, Forget Paris, also received mixed notices. Sadly, Crystal’s latest feature, this year’s Here Today, is deeply felt but also maudlin, fussy, and forgettable, lacking the precision of its emotionally-yearning intentions. Only HBO’s 61*, Crystal’s third film, found widespread critical acclaim. The baseball period drama is very sentimental, perhaps overly so, but it’s aided nicely by its two lead performances from Barry Pepper and Thomas Jane as the legendary Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, respectively. In the only film where he stayed strictly behind the camera, Crystal made a conventional-but-charming look back at a similar era for America’s favorite past-time, and he tells this tale with warm affection and a sharp eye for performances.