'This Is Us': One Direction in one dimension
05:00 AM, Aug 28, 2013
While the 3-D pop-umentary One Direction: This Is Us is entertaining enough for those of us wondering what all the fuss is about, the film fails to offer a fully drawn portrait of the teen idols.
It’s misleading to call this a documentary fan fodder is more like it.
Director Morgan Spurlock’s superficial chronicle of the British-Irish quintet’s rise to fame (** 1/2 out of four; rated PG, opens Friday nationwide) offers no new insight for the millions of young devotees of the massively popular boy band made up of Harry Styles, 19; Louis Tomlinson, 21; Zayn Malik, 20; Liam Payne, 20; and Niall Horan, 19. Most of One D’s largely female fan base already knows or thinks it knows more about the singers than this film offers up. But for the masses it’s a reasonably intriguing, if rather sanitized, look at these seemingly likable young entertainers.
Audiences get some of the basic biographical details of the individual singers, who were hand-picked and assembled into a band in 2010 by Simon Cowell following X Factor auditions. Though they finished in third place, they were signed to Cowell’s record label and quickly became a global sensation. More about Cowell’s savvy business sense would have been a plus.
For non-fans, commentary from sociologists or music experts might have illuminated why teenage girls turn themselves into shrieking, sobbing fanatics at the sight of cute boy-men singing love songs. (At an advance screening in Los Angeles a riot erupted outside the theater and police were summoned when a rumor spread that one of the band members was inside the auditorium.)
It’s tempting to be cynical about this manufactured band, but the boys offer a wholesome, moderately talented receptacle for budding adolescent sexuality. They have a strong worth ethic, a sense of humor and they love their mums. It certainly could be worse.
Spurlock spotlights Zayn buying a house for his mother, but any mention of a girlfriend is studiously avoided (though he recently announced his engagement). In fact, if this documentary is to be believed, these guys live in a kind of Hard Day’s Night frat vacuum.
Still, they seem to have a healthy sense of irony about all the hoopla. If their youthful antics are any indication, they’re relatively unspoiled. They’re charming, good-humored and apparent pals. They have about as good a grasp on instant fame as anyone could hope for.
The documentary focuses on the build-up to a worldwide arena tour and on well-choreographed concert footage, but some of the better moments are when the boys don disguises and interact with fans behind a curtain of anonymity.
Concert scenes are interspersed with endearing snippets of interaction between the bandmates and a peek inside their boyhood homes. We get an inkling of how they grew up and some strikingly similar overwhelmed commentary from their parents. It’s not unlike a long-form commercial.
Such hagiography is a major departure for Spurlock, who burst into the film world in 2004 with Super Size Me, a shrewd, comic look at the fast food industry. It’s mystifying why he even signed on for this project. Why hire a personality like Spurlock and not employ him to do what he does best wry, satirical analysis?
It’s 90 minutes of One D in vivid 3-D. Sure, the content is slick, one-dimensional fluff, but it’s enjoyable and moderately captivating, not unlike their music.