Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Currently available on DVD: "The Boys, The Sherman Brothers Story

As a songwriting team, Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman are one of the most successful and honored in history. They have written more than 1,000 songs -- for 50 movies alone -- as well as for television, records, theme parks and the theater. The only songwriters to be put under contract by Walt Disney Studios, they became synonymous with its musicals -- Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and The Jungle Book among them.

Both brothers reveal a deep affection and reverence for Walt Disney, with whom they formed an unusually close relationship. But with each other, the Shermans, now in their 80s, have had a personal relationship as prickly as their professional collaboration has been fruitful.

Incredibly, Robert's son Jeffrey, a writer, producer, director and composer for film and TV, and Richard's son Gregory, an Emmy Award-winning producer and screenwriter, grew up in Beverly Hills seven blocks apart but never really spoke to each other until the 2002 London premiere of the stage adaptation of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The two became captivated by the idea of making a documentary on the lives and careers of their fathers.

The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story is, above all, a loving salute from sons to their accomplished fathers. Robert and Richard Sherman have strong personalities, and their sense of distance from each other is clear, yet they are loathe to discuss their acrimony on camera beyond acknowledging it -- or, for that matter, just how their collaboration works despite it. But there are hints about an incident in which Richard was at Robert's home in Robert's absence.

The Boys is so heartfelt that it elicits a sense that complex creative relationships may ultimately elude explication, leaving Jeffrey Sherman to speculate that the friction between his father and his uncle was what brought their songs alive.

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