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DVD Reviews

HTF Review: THE BOYS: The Sherman Brothers' Story



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#1 of 4 OFFLINE   Leo Kerr

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Posted November 28 2010 - 12:46 PM

The Boys
The Sherman Brothers’ Story



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Walt Disney Pictures and Crescendo/Traveling Light release, a biographical documentary of Robert and Richard Sherman.

The feature is assembled from a variety of sources, and in many cases, recomposed for the purpose of this documentary for the 16:9 frame, and is accompanied by a Dolby Digital 5.1 sound-track.  There is a Spanish language track, as well as subtitles in both English and Spanish.  Without interruption, the disc will run previews for two other Disney documentaries being released at the same time, Waking Sleeping Beauty and Walt & El Grupo.  There are extensive other on-disc features, and a reproduction of the original music for Tuppence a Bag, from Mary Poppins.


The packaging is much like many other Disney releases, with a cardboard slip-cover over a conventional DVD case.  Enclosed within the plastic shell is the reproduced music and, of course, the DVD itself.  Suggested retail for this disc is $29.99, and will be released in North America on Tuesday, November 30, 2010.

The Feature — ••••
After World War II, somewhat goaded by their father, two relatively unsuccessful brothers — one a composer, the other a writer — joined forces and actually started on the road to success.  Songs written by the pair started to get recorded and radio-play.  A few chance encounters writing music for the Mouseketeers brought them somewhat to the attention of Walt Disney.  A few fits and starts later, and they became ‘on-staff’ songsmiths for Disney Studios for thirteen years.  As their compositional genius also thrived on a somewhat adversarial relationship, their enforced togetherness also drove them (privately) far apart.  During this time, and even afterword, they created over a thousand songs, composed for fifty films, winning a number of accolades, not the least of which were two Oscars for Mary Poppins (Original Song and Original Score, 1964.)  And, of course, one of the greatly loved, and most loathed of theme-park music, It’s a Small World, After All.


This film, directed and produced Jeffrey C. and Gregory V. Sherman, cousins and sons of Robert and Richard, explores their lives.  Their similarities.  Their differences.  How they came together to work as a team, and how their successes and differences conspired to drive them apart.  And how that division kept the family apart, even at their father’s funeral.  The film is told through a combination of file-footage, interviews of the Sherman Brothers during the time, as well as new interviews of the Sherman Brothers shot for the film.  And there are numerous interviews of other composers, musicians, actors, performers, animators, and family members to help fill out the detailed and bittersweet picture.  Names include, but are not limited to, John Williams, Angela Lansbury, Roy and Walt Disney, Dick Van Dyke, Ben Stiller, Julie Andrews, and Annette Funicello.


Suitably, the film is ‘scored’ primarily with selections of the music of the Sherman Brothers, with more than 90 different songs and recordings listed in the credits.


[Note: for those, like me, not familiar with the Sherman brothers, included here is a very partial list of features that they composed for:  The Parent Trap, Sword and the Stone, Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh, Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, The Jungle Book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, AristoCats, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Charlotte’s Web, and so on.]
The Picture — •••½
The picture quality, of course, varies.  Early television recordings and kinoscopes do not compare well to modern video.  Given the nature of the sources used for this program, however, the picture quality is generally quite good — or faithful — with little in the way of extraneous digital artifacts.

The Sound — •••½
Here especially, the sound is important, particularly given the ninety plus samples of the team’s music.  The audio is clean and clear, and the interviews are completely intelligible.
The Extras — •••
And there are Extras.  Most ‘feel’ like a deleted scene, where they just would not fit into the flow of the film, or, to be useful, would run too long for the film.


Why They’re The Boys: 2.5 minutes on others remembering them as just ‘the boys.’


Disney Studios in the ’60s: 3.5 minutes on life at the studios, from actors, animators, and others.


Casting Mary Poppins: 3.5 minutes on the process and secrets of casting Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke for Mary Poppins.


The Process: 4 minutes from the Sherman Brothers, and other composers and songwriters on the art of songwriting.


Theme Parks: 9 minutes on ‘story music’ for ‘the Tiki Room,’ ‘World of Tomorrow,’ a few others, and, of course, ‘Small World.’


Roy Williams: 3.5 minutes on their next-door-neighbor in the Disney Animation Building.  Roy heard a lot of noise from the songwriters, and routinely scribbled sketches of what he thought caused those noises, to slip under their door.

Bob’s Art: 2 minutes on painting, and showing paintings of Robert Sherman.


Celebration: 4 minutes of people praising the Shermans and their music.


Sherman Brothers’ Jukebox: samples and stories about twelve of their songs.

In The End — ••••
Ultimately, we have here a fairly well-told story of brothers growing up together, working together, and then growing apart.  While many people do not recognize their names, most of those people will have heard at least some of their works.  And, as it is truly based in ‘real life,’ the fact that the film finished production with the brothers still unrepentant, the film ends on something of a low note.

Recommended.



#2 of 4 OFFLINE   Eric Vedowski

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Posted November 29 2010 - 06:25 AM

Thanks for the review. I just watched this last weekend via Starz On Demand (it's in the Early Premiere section until December 19, 2010-scheduled on Starz channel on Dec. 10th at 5:10 am CST) and I really enjoyed it. Anyone who grew up in the 60s/70s and went to Disney movies or had kiddie records will be familiar with their work. I've never seen "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" but I knew the songs used in the documentary. The film doesn't really explain what the problem between the brothers is/was but the lack of airing their dirty laundry in public is refreshing in this day and age. I wish they had featured a little more information about the brothers only original Broadway musical "Over Here!" (1974) which featured great original big band/swing songs (and some very funny lyrics) and would have enjoyed a long run if the Andrews Sisters could have gotten along with each other. The song from the show performed on the Tony Awards that year ("Charlie's Place") was sensational and, I believe, included John Travolta, Treat Williams & Marilu Henner-would've been nice to see that. It was quite unlike the music most people associate with them.  I had no idea the Sherman Brothers wrote "You're Sixteen" or that Pink Floyd's David Gilmour loved/performed "Hushaby Mountain." I do get the feeling a lot of stuff was left on the cutting room floor, for example Johnny Whitaker appears for just a few seconds, as do a number of the "name" performers interviewed. Nice enough anyway.



#3 of 4 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted November 29 2010 - 07:17 AM

Leo:


Thanks so much for this review.


I have been a big fan of the Sherman Brothers for quite some time.  As an aficionado of Disney music (films & theme park, mostly) I have been listening to Sherman Brothers songs for quite a long while.  I even have Richard Sherman's signature on a framed copy of sheet music of It's a Small World (After All).  Posted Image


I have featured this release in this week's Weekly RoundUp.  And, I included this YouTube video of the trailer to give the uninformed a glimpse into just some of the magic for which the Brothers Sherman are responsible.




This should be at my house today or tomorrow from amazon--one of the few such pre-orders I might do in any given year.

These two gentlemen are amazing talents.  As amazing as, say, Rogers and Hammerstein in their ability to come together as a team and create some of the most clever lyrics and music ever heard.

While many people may not know who they are, my wife and kids know all too well who the Sherman Brothers are--because of me.  My family was never more surprised then when I told them that there was a documentary coming out on their lives and careers.

I was not able to see this in its limited theatrical run and am very much looking forward to finding out more about the lives and times of this talented duo.

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#4 of 4 OFFLINE   Leo Kerr

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Posted November 30 2010 - 10:51 AM

I was wondering, as I watched it, if they would ever get down and explicitly say, "this is why they split up."

And, in short, they don't do that.


Instead, it seems that in a fairly gentle fashion, they allow the viewer to build up an impression — that may or may not be accurate.  In my case, I believe it may have been because of two wildly dissimilar brothers working in such close proximity to just build up a "no, this is too much," sort of epiphany.  It's not a good thing to happen in a family, but it's not an unheard of thing.  And I can imagine it happening even within my own family, had I to work in such close proximity with one of my brothers pretty much every day for 30 years.  Unless one of us killed the other, of course.


Leo