Gregory V. Sherman, Jeff Sherman
Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman, Roy Edward Disney
Brothers, Partners, Strangers.
The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story is an intimate journey through the lives of Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman, the astoundingly prolific, Academy Award®-winning songwriting team that defined family musical entertainment for five decades with unforgettable songs like “Supercalifragilistic-
expialidocous” from Mary Poppins, “I Wanna Be Like You” from The Jungle Book and the most translated song ever written "It’s a Small World (After All)" from the Disneyland attraction. The feature-length documentary, conceived, produced and directed by two of the songwriters’ sons, take audiences behind the scenes of the Hollywood magic factory and offers a rate glimpse of a unique creative process at work. It also explores a deep and longstanding rift that has kept the brothers personally estranged throughout much of their unparalleled professional partnership
$19.875 thousand on 5 screens.
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
Runtime: 102 min.
Release Date: 11/30/2010
• “Why They’re ‘The Boys’” Featurette
• “Disney Stydios in the ‘60s” Featurette
• “Casting Mary Poppins” Featurette
• “The Process” Featurette
• “Theme Parks” Featurette
• “Roy Williams” Featurette
• “Bob’s Art” Featurette
• “Celebration” Featurette
• “Sherman Brothers Jukebox”
• Collectible Music Sheet
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The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story (2009)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 14, 2010)
While I suspect the names of the Sherman Brothers remain best-known to Disney buffs, much of the world knows their music. With tunes in movies like Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book, I doubt a single visitor to this site doesn’t boast awareness of their music.
We get a look at the lifelong partnership of Robert and Richard Sherman via a documentary entitled The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story. In this, we find interviews with Richard and Robert Sherman, composers Randy Newman, Stephen Schwartz, Kenny Loggins, Alan Menken, Sheldon Harnick, and John Williams, directors/sons Jeff and Greg Sherman, filmmakers John Lasseter, Barbara Broccoli, Sam Goldwyn, Jr., and John Landis, former Disney executive Roy E. Disney, film historian Robert Osborne, daughters Tracey Sherman, Vicki Wolf and Lynda Rothstein, Magic Castle founder Milt Larsen, Dick’s wife Elizabeth, Disney staff writer AJ Carothers, Disney author/historian Leonard Maltin, author/historian Brian Sibley, Disney Imagineer Bruce Gordon, set/costume designer Tony Walton, Disney Theatrical Productions president Tom Schumacher, stage producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh, Julie Andrews’ former husband Tony Walton, Disney Imagineering International Ambassador Marty Sklar, manager Mike Conner’s son Lindsay, biographer Jeff Kurtti, Jeff Sherman’s wife Wendy Liebman, and actors Julie Andrews, Ben Stiller, Dick Van Dyke, Hayley Mills, Karen Dotrice, Debbie Reynolds, Lesley Ann Warren, John Davidson, Angela Lansbury, and Johnny Whitaker.
Boys looks at the brothers’ childhood and then traces their path into show business. It discusses the nature of music/movies during the brothers’ early years and their lives during that period. From there, we see the beginnings of their musical career, how they came to Disney, and how they worked together over the years.
As an overview of the brothers’ work, it does quite well for itself. I like the elements about their early lives and their influences, and the film digs into their most notable songs in a compelling way. It acts as a good professional overview.
If Boys consisted solely of info about the brothers’ professional moments, it would’ve been satisfying. However, it wouldn’t have been more than something to slap on a DVD as an extra, so the information about their private lives adds depth.
Though maybe not as much as I’d like. During the movie’s opening, it teases us with indications that the Sherman brothers’ chummy public persona is a lie, and it elaborates on this topic – a bit. While we get occasional nuggets about the distance between Dick and Bob, the flick doesn’t really investigate this well.
Because of this, it lacks reflection. We learn that Dick and Bob aren’t close, and we get a hint that this stemmed from an incident when Bob briefly left his wife, but that’s about all she wrote. We don’t get the level of psychological introspection to investigate the topic well, so we’re left to wonder what went wrong with the two.
The movie does attempt to paint them as being so different that they’d be personally incompatible. We see Dick as peppy and bubbly, while Bob – permanently scarred by experiences during World War II – comes across as dark and moody. The film hints that their differing personalities acts as a wedge between them and always did, as it questions whether or not they were ever close.
Which sets up some of the movie’s most interesting moments, as we see conflicting memories. For instance, Bob claims they never were terribly attached to each other, while Dick paints a childhood mutual admiration society. We don’t know which is true – if either – but it’s compelling to see how each man views his past so differently. A few of these conflicting memories arise; some are funny, some are sad, but all are intriguing.
I just wish we’d gotten a bit more depth about the personal conflicts. From what I gather, Boys was created by Bob’s son Greg and Dick’s son Jeff as an attempt to bring their fathers closer together. That thrusts the brothers’ differences to the forefront and means that at its core, Boys wants to be more than just an overview of the brothers’ greatest hits.
And I don’t want to sound too critical, as I think the movie delivers good information about the personal complications involved in the Sherman brothers’ long partnership. I just want to see more of that.
I do wonder if Jeff and Greg Sherman did the best with what they had. It’s entirely possible that their dads simply didn’t want to deal with their disconnect. While both Dick and Bob seem quite frank in their interviews, I do suspect that they don't want to totally eradicate the notion of “The Boys”, so the film may present as much of the behind the scenes info as they offered.
And I also can understand if Jeff and Greg preferred to celebrate their fathers and not tear them down. Boys walks a bit of a tightrope: it needs to give us enough personal information to add depth, but it doesn't want to come across as some tawdry exposé. While I clearly would like more of the family information, I do appreciate the tasteful balance it achieves.
Despite some complaints, I still find a lot to like about The Boys. It certainly acts as a nice appreciation for the careers of two legendary composers, and the behind the scenes look at the Sherman families adds depth. It’s not a slam dunk, but it’s satisfying.
The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus C+
The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Nothing exceptional appeared here, but the film looked more than acceptable.
Sharpness usually seemed fine. The program consisted of a mix of archival materials and modern “talking head” interviews. These could occasionally look a little rough and blocky, but they generally appeared reasonably accurate and concise. Mild issues connected to jagged edges and shimmering occurred, but no signs of edge enhancement occurred. Source flaws weren’t an issue, though some light digital artifacts gave the show a bit of a grainy look.
Colors were satisfactory. The program featured a natural palette, and the hues looked clear and concise. Blacks were fairly dark and tight, and low-light shots seemed acceptably distinctive. While this was never a dynamic transfer, it remained perfectly watchable.
I thought the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Boys was also acceptable. The soundfield had little going for it. Music showed good stereo imaging, and a few effects spread out across the front. These were minor, though, and didn’t add much to the experience. That said, a documentary like this didn’t need a dynamic soundscape, so I didn’t mind the ordinary presentation.
Audio quality was fine. Speech sounded natural and concise, without edginess or other problems. Music seemed full and rich, and effects were decent; they didn’t demand much of the mix, but they appeared accurate enough. This was a perfectly serviceable soundtrack for a documentary.
When we hit the extras, we find a bunch of featurettes. Why They’re ‘The Boys’ fills two minutes, 37 seconds and includes notes from Richard Sherman, director/son Jeff Sherman, filmmaker Barbara Broccoli, and actors Julie Andrews, Debbie Reynolds, John Davidson and Dick Van Dyke. It talks about how the Shermans are known as “The Boys”, though it doesn’t really tell us the origins of the phrase. That makes it decent but a little frustrating.
During the three-minute, 34-second Disney Studios in the ‘60s, we hear from Richard and Robert Sherman, Davidson, historian/critic Leonard Maltin, former studio executive Roy E. Disney, Disney staff writer AJ Carothers, and actors Lesley Ann Warren and Angela Lansbury. They tell us a bit about the studio’s functioning during the Sherman brothers’ heyday. Though we get a few fun stories, the program doesn’t really tell us a ton.
Next comes Casting Mary Poppins. It goes for three minutes, 40 seconds and features Richard Sherman, Andrews and Van Dyke. The show looks at how Andrews and Van Dyke came onto the film. This is a quick but useful exploration of the subject.
When we go to The Process, we get four minutes, 21 seconds with Richard and Robert Sherman, Broccoli, Disney Theatrical president Thomas Schumacher, record producer James Jensen, Disney Music president Chris Montan, film historian Robert Osborne, comedian Wendy Liebman, musician Micky Dolenz, producer Samuel Goldwyn, Jr., and composer Alan Menken. The show looks at the creative methods used to create songs. Some insights related to the Sherman brothers’ processes appear, but we get too much praise and general thoughts along the way.
In the nine-minute, nine-second Theme Parks, we hear from Richard and Robert Sherman, filmmakers John Lasseter, Jon Turteltaub and John Landis, Disney Imagineering International Ambassador Marty Sklar, composers Stephen Schwartz and Maury Yeston, and actor Ben Stiller. The piece looks at the various songs the Sherman brothers wrote for Disney theme park attractions. As usual, we get some good info – and some nice archival shots – but there’s too much general praise for my liking. I do think Landis’ notion that Disneyland attractions should be experienced in chronological order is cool, though.
Roy Williams lasts three minutes, 23 seconds and features Richard and Robert Sherman. They discuss their relationship with story artist Williams. This works as one of the disc’s better components, as we hear fun anecdotes and see Williams’ cartoons about “The Boys”.
Via Bob’s Art, we find two minutes, 17 seconds with Robert Sherman. He tells us a little about his painting and we see some examples. This isn’t a terribly fascinating piece, but it adds a bit to our understanding of Sherman.
Celebration runs three minutes, 54 seconds and includes notes from Schwartz, Osborne, Reynolds, Montan, Lansbury, Andrews, Davidson, Maltin, Broccoli, Dolenz, composer John Williams, performers Gavin Lee, Jimmy Osmond, Ashley Brown and Jim Dale, stage producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh, song writer Diane Warren, Disney Imagineer Bruce Gordon, and Disney historian Jeff Kurtti. As implied by the title, “Celebration” tells us of the Sherman brothers’ greatness. That may be true, but the repetition makes for a dull featurette.
Finally, 12 songs appear under Sherman Brothers Jukebox. Across a total of 21 minutes, 47 seconds, we hear from Richard and Robert Sherman, Schwartz, Van Dyke, Yeston, Andrews, and musician Laurence Juber.
Most of these snippets, we get demos and thoughts from the Sherman brothers, but we also see Juber’s acoustic guitar rendition of “Spoonful of Sugar” and a 1924 Eddie Cantor performance of a tune by the Sherman brothers’ father. In addition, we see a commercial for Der Wienerschnitzel with a theme composed by the brothers. It’s maybe the most delightful piece here, but all have merit. This becomes a good collection of clips.
One non-disc-based component pops up as well. A Collectible Mary Poppins Music Sheet offers the printed take on “Tuppence a Bag”. It’s a moderately interesting bonus.
The disc opens with promos for Waking Sleeping Beauty and Walt & El Grupo. Under Sneak Peeks, we also get ads for DisneyNature: African Cats, Fantasia/Fantasia 2000, D23.com, Bambi, and The Lion King.
It’s next to impossible to be ignorant of the music composed by the Sherman brothers, and The Boys covers their career well. I wish it dug into their personal lives a bit better, but it still gives us an intriguing and informative take. The DVD provides acceptable picture and audio as well as some decent supplements. Nothing about this release dazzles, but it presents an interesting film in a satisfactory manner.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5 Stars|| Number of Votes: 2|