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Movie Review

The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story

The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story
Photo Source: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman have written some of the most recognizable tunes in the American songbook—from the Oscar-winning score for Mary Poppins to the irritatingly catchy It's A Small World played repeatedly on the Disneyland ride. Their other works include scores for The Jungle Book, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and hundreds more in a remarkable collaboration that is marred only by one thing: The brothers barely talk to each other.

The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story is an insightful documentary that tells of these two estranged tunesmiths—who have managed to make beautiful music together for half a century yet nail the "sibling" onto rivalry and the "dys" onto functional. Directed by Richard's son Gregory V. Sherman and Robert's son Jeffrey C. Sherman (this family apparently loves middle initials), this is a warts-and-all look at the brothers that probably only could have been pulled off by their offspring. We see them interviewed separately—Richard in L.A. and Robert in London, where he now lives—for the documentary. Reasons for their personal big chill are not really given.

The film explores their upbringing: Robert's life-altering military experience, their marriages, their early successes, and, best of all, their magical association with Walt Disney. For the Walt Disney Co., they became the resident songwriters and creators of hit tunes for Annette Funicello, Hayley Mills, and so many others. It's ironic that one of their biggest smashes was for 1961's The Parent Trap, in which Mills sang with herself: "Let's Get Together, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah." The stories about working with Disney are the film's highlights, including their weekly Friday afternoon visits during which Disney would always ask the boys to play his favorite Poppins tune, "Feed the Birds."

In addition to newly minted chats with Richard and Robert, plenty of other notables offer their views, including Mills, Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, John Williams, Roy E. Disney, Angela Lansbury, Kenny Loggins, Debbie Reynolds, Randy Newman, and even Ben Stiller, who reportedly wants to do a live-action film based on the life of the Shermans. The filmmakers also trail the brothers to the Broadway premiere of the new stage version of Mary Poppins, in which the individual families sat on opposite sides of the theater and were instructed not to approach each other.

The film's treasure trove of film clips and archival material dug out of the Disney vaults is worth the price of admission. But this is a unique and richly entertaining look at two Disney pioneers whose own lives were not always accompanied by a spoonful of sugar.

Genre: Documentary
Directed by: Gregory V. Sherman and Jeffrey C. Sherman
Starring: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, John Williams, Roy E. Disney, Angela Lansbury, Kenny Loggins, Debbie Reynolds, Hayley Mills

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