Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
August 29, 2013
**1/2 (out of four)
At the screening for the 3-D concert documentary “One Direction: This Is Us,” many young women in the audience screamed at the first sight of the boy band—and it wasn’t even the movie. It was a commercial for the lads’ anti-bullying “Live Nice” partnership with Office Depot. This is outrageous for two reasons: One is the idea that bullies would stand down to the “live nice” motto. And two is that this group has reached post-Bieber levels of worldwide and local infiltration to the point that they make N’Sync and Backstreet Boys fandom look downright tame.
Still, “This Is Us” has an advantage that the Katy Perry and Justin Bieber docs didn’t: Its subjects are amusing, and the fun is contagious. As captured by director Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me,” several docs worse than that), Harry, Zayn, Niall, Liam and Louis, put together by Simon Cowell after each auditioned for “The X Factor,” come off as appealing goofballs who take an arrogance-free, fun-loving approach to their careers. Even when the movie avoids many relevant questions, it works as a travel comedy featuring dudes who are immature but not entitled, silly but not tiresome.
That extends from the entertaining live performances, during which 1D doesn’t do choreographed dances but sprinkles in intentionally amateur moves for the hell of it, to the backstage antics. They drive golf carts and, at one point, Niall undergoes extensive makeup and hair treatment to disguise himself as a security guard who hates One Direction.
While it’s sobering to hear the guys’ parents understandably long for more time and communication with their sons, who have been on the road since about 16, the film predictably contains zilch that can be considered controversial. (Harry admits that the rigorous schedule isn’t always fun, but even the most protective publicist has to allow that.) With this quintet spending all day every day together, is there ever any conflict? What do they fight about? Considering their songs deliberately exist as a certain romantic fantasy, how do they handle the female attention, and what are their relationships like with young women?
Spurlock doesn’t capture the answer, nor does he provide tangible perspective as the band members generalize about the many groups who come and go and the notion that, at some undetermined point in the future, they will no longer be famous. Coupled with the notion, as one member notes, that these may be the best days of their lives, that’s a tough thing for anyone to wrap their head around, much less a 19-year-old millionaire with the planet wrapped around his finger.
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