Odd Couples

Get Hard: written by Adam McKay, Jay Martel, Ian Roberts, and Etan Cohen; directed by Etan Cohen; starring Will Ferrell (James King), Kevin Hart (Darnell), Craig T. Nelson (Martin), and Alison Brie (Alissa) (2015): Jolly farce gets a lot of laughs from a Trading Places-type plot thanks to the fact that leads Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart are genuinely funny. It’s not a great movie comedy, but this pairing suggests that a better screenplay could yield something amazing from these two comic actors. Though some thoughtfully written female characters would be nice — how about adding Melissa McCarthy to the mix? Recommended.

61*: written by Hank Steinberg; directed by Billy Crystal; starring Barry Pepper (Roger Maris), Thomas Jane (Mickey Mantle), Anthony Michael Hall (Whitey Ford), Richard Masur (Milt Kahn), Bruce McGill (Ralph Houk), Jennifer Crystal Foley (Pat Maris), Peter Jacobson (Artie Green), and Donald Moffat (Ford Frick) (2001): Excellent HBO movie about the pursuit of Babe Ruth’s single-season home-run record of 60 by Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle of the 1961 New York Yankees. Thomas Jane and Barry Pepper have never been better, while there’s a pungent feel to those reporters who are supporting characters — and who are, with the exception of Richard Masur as Milt Kahn, hostile towards Maris.

Indeed, Maris faced hostility from pretty much everyone. Yankees fans didn’t like him because he wasn’t a “true” Yankee, as he’d come over in a trade with Kansas City a couple of years earlier. And Yankees fans and reporters loved Mantle. And Maris was a quiet and reserved fellow who didn’t like the limelight. Most of the events in the movie are true, though not all occurred in 1961. Bily Crystal’s direction seems to get the most out of his actors — only the occasionally too-bombastic music score is a problem at times. Highly recommended.

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