SFIFF: Tune boon

Before there was Barney or Raffi -- catchy ditties and dino-riffs at SFIFF
The Lost World strikes back


Before there was Barney or Raffi, the answer to the question, "Who is most responsible for songs most likely to make children sing and push their parents to the very brink of sanity?" was most likely "the Sherman brothers." It might have been enough for Robert and Richard Sherman to write "Supercalifragiliciousexpialidocious," "It's a Small World," and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," each of which when heard once — let alone a zillion times — became instantly imprinted on the DNA of several juvenile generations. But no, they also had to write indelible songs for the Disney's The Jungle Book (1967), various Winnie the Pooh species, Charlotte's Web (1973), and other things you might have escaped only by being born very recently or growing up in rare media isolation.

World premiering at SFIFF this year is The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story, a feature documentary about the Shermans made by two of their sons, Gregory and Jeffrey — partly to figure out just why these fraternal composers of so many cheerful songs have barely been on speaking terms in recent decades. The answer is complicated and, unlike most Disney movies (or documentaries about them), there isn't a happy ending. But there are a lot of happy memories in these 100 minutes, with people like Julie Andrews, Hayley Mills, Roy Disney, Dick Van Dyke, and John Williams remembering the Shermans as a joy to work with, if not a joy to one another. The brothers themselves, still alive and variably kicking, cannot quite agree on what came between them. But of course, not agreeing is exactly the thing.

Unless you grew up in pre-Khmer Cambodia (or an ex-pat community), odds are the majority repertoire of L.A.-based Dengue Fever were not your childhood's soundtrack. But the band's six members know that is really too bad, because Cambodian pop of the 1960s and early '70s just rocked, with its Farfisa organ riffs, psychedelic flourishes, and incessantly catchy hooks. In an inspired stroke, the festival's latest silent film-contemporary music match-up was commissioning Dengue Fever to create a live score for The Lost World, a 1925 superproduction that's a lot more like today's mall-flick fantasias than just about anything else you could find from that era.

Adapted from Sir Conan Doyle's story, it follows a British expedition deep into the Amazon, where one cranky suspected quack scientist claims to have discovered a hidden valley of prehistoric creatures. By gum, he's right. This restored thrill ride, featuring stop-motion dinosaurs, elaborate miniatures, romantic intrigue, a guy in an ape suit and another (alas) in comedy blackface, was an obvious model for 1933's King Kong (Willis O'Brien designed FX on both) and an admitted one for 1993's Jurassic Park (whose sequel, you'll recall, was 1997's The Lost World). After nearly 85 years, it's still at least as entertaining as the latter-day comic-book movies that owe it a colossal debt.


Sat/25, 2 p.m., Letterman Digital Arts Center


May 5, 8 p.m., Castro

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