They were the songwriting sibling duo that molded your favorite Disney melodies, helping the big-eared conglomerate corner the market on cutesy animated musicals in the ’60s. But The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story—a documentary about the successful (yet seriously flawed) partnership between the manic Richard and the methodical Robert—has the same Achilles’ heel as some of their songs: a tendency to skew saccharine.
It was Mary Poppins that made them international, Oscar-winning heavyweights, and it’s the backstory of that production—almost deep-sixed by author P.L. Travers—that stands as the film’s most revealing anecdote. Yet directors Gregory and Jeffrey Sherman, sons of the composers, have set themselves such a furious pace in parsing the full chronology that we only skim the surface of the Poppins near-disaster.
These “boys” were indeed a deeply dysfunctional pair. Always smiling in public, the brothers could barely stand one another, and this explosive friction in the music studio may have been the essential artistic ingredient in crafting such cheery hits as “Chim Chim Cher-ee” and The Jungle Book’s “I Wanna Be Like You.” It also tore their families apart, which is an artistic paradox so wrenching—and haunting—that it demands to be more than a mere footnote.
—S. James Snyder
Opens Fri; Landmark Sunshine. Find showtimes