Unless you’re already enamored of the soulless, derivative music and stage personae of One Direction, there’s no point in bothering to see One Direction: This Is Us. Documentarian Morgan Spurlock, who has given us 30 Days and Supersize Me, can’t find anything interesting about a bunch of well groomed, working-class British lads whose primary skill is making teen girls scream.
To be fair to 1D, Spurlock doesn’t appear to be trying too hard. The young blokes in the band seem agreeable and well-adjusted, but the filmmaker reveals little about these guys that die-hard fans probably don’t already know. Except for the fact that one fellow speaks with an Irish accent instead of a British one, these guys are hard to tell apart. When one fellow says Zayn Malik is the “mysterious one,” the word “boring” more readily comes to mind.
Hearing music executive and X-Factor judge Simon Cowell gush about their rise doesn’t help. Cowell has developed a titanic ego without having any achievements. With the exceptions of Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, he has championed a series of forgettable acts who disappeared from the radar once they left Cowell’s show.
The fact that this guy has claimed to be more valuable to Sony/BMG than Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan makes him seem even more buffoonish and worthless. These fellows have outlasted Cowell’s acts by decades and have written reams of songs that have been hits for others. (Quick, name the American Idol winner the last time Cowell was on the show.)
Cowell and Spurlock share producing credit here, so it’s no wonder that there is little other than bromides about 1D’s sudden rise to fame to fill the movie’s running time. While it is heartwarming to see the lads’ grateful relatives enjoying the fruits of their labors, parades of screaming fans get old quickly. After a while, Mexico City and Tokyo begin to look the same.
During the performance clips, Spurlock finally appears to be having fun. The sets 1D perform on are creatively designed, and Spurlock adds 3-D comic balloons to go with the lyrics. That’s one touch that almost makes the banal verse seem less painful.
The one break from tedium comes when the fellows go through their venues in disguise, interact with fans and make fun of themselves. These guys might have futures as sketch comedians and thankfully don’t take themselves too seriously. This may help them if they want to make livings once they’re no longer considered hunky.
One Direction: This Is Us emerges in the wake of far more arresting music documentaries that reveal a lot about artists who aren’t nearly as well-known as 1D but are infinitely more interesting. Ondi Timoner’s Dig! introduced the world to the Brian Jonestown Massacre by fearlessly presenting them warts and all, and the story behind Rodriguez and Searching for Sugar Man is infinitely more suspenseful and gratifying than anything Spurlock presents here.
While the Brian Jonestown Massacre and Rodriguez may not fill Madison Square Garden, their movies avoid sour notes by revealing the people who’ve made the music possible. It’s too bad that Spurlock settled for making a 3-D press release about 1D.
One Direction: This Is Us 68 Cast: Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson, Simon Cowell, Martin Scorsese Director: Morgan Spurlock Rating: PG, for mild language Running time: 92 minutes
MovieStyle, Pages 33 on 08/30/2013
Print Headline: One Direction: This Is Us