Harvard Beats Yale 29-29
It comes as no surprise after watching Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 that director Kevin Rafferty is a Harvard grad. From the very beginning, it's clear where Rafferty's allegiances lie. In this documentary about the legendary 1968 Harvard vs. Yale football game, Rafferty depicts the Harvard Crimson as hard-scrabble working-class underdogs and the Yale Bulldogs as a bunch of overconfident privileged legacies. Both teams came to the game undefeated, but Yale was favored, partially because of quarterback Brian Dowling, whose campus nickname was God and who was the inspiration for the B.D. character in Gary Trudeau's undergrad precursor to the Doonesbury comic strip.
Rafferty mixes footage of the game with talking head interviews with the players from both teams. This format feels tired and uninspired. The only real tension, as the final score is in the title, is presented by how Harvard could possibly catch up when the game was 29-19 with 42 seconds left. But that is hardly the point; this movie was made for people who are already familiar with this game. It was made for people who went to Harvard and Yale, and they will undoubtedly love it, as there is nothing Harvard or Yale grads enjoy more than reminiscing about their illustrious institutions.
For people who are neither Bulldogs nor Crimson, this documentary offers little. Some of the interview subjects are compelling, such as a Harvard player discussing his time in Vietnam. Many of the players are real characters--such as Yale's truly creepy Mike Bouscaren, who could be blamed for Yale's non-victory. And a couple of stories about now-famous people the players hung out with offer little new information--Meryl Streep was shy, George W. Bush got drunk often, and Tommy Lee Jones, a former Harvard offensive tackle, proves in interviews that he is, indeed, utterly humorless. If you spent college years on Harvard Yard or singing "Boola Boola," Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 is probably required viewing.