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Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story, The (DVD Review)

26 Nov, 2010 By: John Latchem

Street 11/30/10
Box Office $0.06 million
$29.99 DVD
Rated ‘PG’ for mild thematic elements, smoking images and brief language.

Here’s a sight that should make film-music fans giddy: a glimpse behind the scenes of 1973’s Tom Sawyer, and John Williams, perhaps the all-time greatest composer of movie themes, collaborating with the Sherman Brothers, who through their partnership with Disney provided the theme song for a billion childhoods.

It’s the kind of moment retrospectives were made for. Williams was on the verge of redefining the medium with the scores for such films as Jaws, Star Wars and Superman, while the Sherman Brothers were winding down from their most fruitful years. But what became of the creative team once the spotlight dimmed?

The Boys, one of the most heartfelt documentaries about the Disney canon, details the amazing career of Robert and Richard Sherman, from their upbringing as the sons of Tin Pan Alley songwriter Al Sherman, through the Disney years and beyond. Now in their 80s, the Sherman Brothers have long since gone their separate ways (Dick lives in California, while Bob moved to London in 2002), though they still collaborate on occasion.

Dick has remained the more visible face of the duo, still active and full of energy, lending his expertise to a variety of DVD extras the past few years (most recently composing the Stark Expo theme for Iron Man 2). But Bob has retreated a bit from public life, slowed by age and seemingly haunted by a deep pathos dating back to his service during World War II, when he was one of the first American soldiers to march into the Dachau concentration camp.

In terms of personality, the Shermans couldn’t be more different, but together they comprised two parts of a whole. That balance is probably what made their songs so memorable — fun and simple and lighthearted yet imbued with deep meaning all at the same time.

Their talent brought them to the attention of Walt Disney, who signed them to a studio contract and put them to work developing the music for Mary Poppins, an effort for which they would win two Oscars.

One of the great things about The Boys is how it uses the music of its subjects, and how the songs presented in their historical context always seem to fit the mood of the era being covered.

The Boys was a joint effort by Dick’s son Greg and Bob’s son Jeff. Surprisingly the two families had very little contact when the co-directors were growing up, kept apart by an old show business credo that stipulated partners shouldn’t let their families intermingle (a rule that takes on an element of sadness when those partners are brothers).

In a way, this isn’t just the story of the Sherman Brothers. This is the story of the complex relationships shared by families, something we all can relate to, and of the generations looking back upon their roots.

The DVD of The Boys includes several great deleted scenes, and an index of some of the songs used in the film.

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