Richard and Robert Sherman have made the world a happier place through their infectiously upbeat songs. Their names are synonymous with Walt Disney, for whom they wrote the scores for Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, and Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, as well as indelible themes for TV shows, movies, and theme parks. This lively movie celebrates their career and their personal relationship with Walt, and includes interviews with innumerable friends and colleagues, from Julie Andrews to John Williams. (Full disclosure: I also appear, very briefly, but I had no other input to the film. I was as curious as anyone to see how it would turn out.)
Then there is the story behind the story: away from work, Dick and Bob did not see eye to eye. They had different outlooks on life, and different ambitions, from boyhood on. It was their father, a Tin Pan Alley tunesmith, who urged them to
try writing songs together in the 1950s. Once they had a taste of success they forged a profitable partnership—in spite of the fact that they didn’t really get along. This film is the work of their sons, first cousins who didn’t see each other for several decades, even though they lived just blocks apart in Beverly Hills!
I feared that this documentary would put a damper on my admiration for the brothers, but it doesn’t. Somehow, Gregory Sherman and Jeff Sherman have found a way to tell their fathers’ unusual story with empathy—and a respectful distance—so that we don’t feel like we’ve been through anyone’s dirty laundry. Instead, it made me ponder how funny and utterly unpredictable life can be.