ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US
**1/2 (out of 5)
August 30, 2013
Niall Horan as HIMSELF
Zayn Malik as HIMSELF
Liam Payne as HIMSELF
Harry Styles as HIMSELF
Louis Tomlinson as HIMSELF
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Directed by: Morgan Spurlock
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Let’s start off by stating the obvious: I am not the target market for “One Direction: This Is Us.” So take my middling 2 1/2 star rating I’ve given this film with a grain of salt.
The reality is that the movie was made for the 13-year-old girls that are going to weep before the movie and scream at the screen at every single shot of one of the band members without his shirt on. That crowd is going to give this movie five stars out of five (or maybe even fifteen stars out of five… or more, if they could). And when it comes to the success of this film by its intention, it’s a home run.
With that said, let me wipe the tear-stained face paint from my cheeks, put down my hand-made posterboard sign (which reads “1D 2night in 3D 4ever!”) and give a sober review of the film.
“One Direction: This Is Us” is the latest in a string of tweenage 3D concert films. It’s not meant to be a deep examination of the band. Heck, it’s not even meant to be a “VH1 Behind the Music” type of documentary. It’s a “Tiger Beat” article in video form, a feature-length music video featuring the group’s biggest songs and fluffy moments.
It tells the story of how five nobodies from the U.K. found a modicum of success on “The X Factor” as solo acts but ended up being brought together by uber-producer Simon Cowell to become one of the biggest boy bands in recent history. The film is split evenly between the background of the boys involved, their behind-the-scenes candid moments while on tour and slick concert footage complete with 3D tricks and visual effects.
Like the other concert films we’ve seen recently (including “Katy Perry: Part of Me,” “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,” “The Jonas Brothers 3D Concert Experience” and “Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert”), this is a very softball documentary made to give the fans a peek into the stars’ lives. There’s no angst or ill will among them, and it serves as much as an infomercial for the One Direction brand as it does as a concert film.
To the movie’s credit, the concert moments are actually quite impressive in 3D, with high level CGI visual effects that offer something more than just a group of kids singing. (And this is necessary because One Direction takes pride in the fact that they don’t do dance routines like other famous boy bands in history.)
Though there is one other aspect of the film that makes it intriguing. It is directed by Morgan Spurlock, who is best known for his egocentric and more politically-charged documentaries like “Super-Size Me” and “Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden?” It’s a diversion from his normal work, for sure, starting off with the fact that he isn’t the star of the movie. In fact, you don’t see Spurlock at all, which is a good thing since the tweens and teens seeing this movie have no interest in seeing him over the five band members.
There are or two moments in the movie that have a distinct Morgan Spurlock feel to them. Namely, these involve a neurologist explaining the biochemistry behind the euphoria girls feel during these concerts, and a moment where one of the band members (Niall, I think, but they all look alike to me) dresses up as a concert usher and bad-mouths the band to the fans. These scenes are actually pretty cool and break up the picture nicely.
Unfortunately, I theorize that Spurlock had plenty of ideas for other scenes like this but Simon Cowell stepped in and demanded the basic cookie-cutter approach (which, admittedly, will be more in line with what the fans want).
Still, if you’ve seen one of these concert movies, you’ve seen them all, and outside of the aforementioned cool effects in the clips, there’s not much in here you haven’t seen before.