One Direction: This Is Us (3D)

  • Year:2013
  • Rating:PG
  • Director:Morgan Spurlock
  • Cast:One Direction
  • Release Date:September 19, 2013
  • Distributor:Sony
  • Running time:92 minutes
  • Film Worth:$14.00
  • FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

Morgan Spurlock leaves any cynicism (but not his wit) at the door, and crafts an inoffensive but engaging doco about five guys having the time of their lives.

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Fans of documentarian Morgan Spurlock (the sharp and irreverent voice behind Super Size Me and The Greatest Movie Ever Sold) may have been more than a little puzzled when the filmmaker announced his latest project – a 3D rockumentary about the world’s biggest boy band, One Direction. Some may have suspected there’d be a satirical edge to proceedings or an opportunity for a jab or two, but surprisingly, One Direction: This Is Us is as wholly inoffensive and uncynical as the band’s brand of pop music. It’s an adoring tribute to the band and their fans, and Spurlock stays firmly behind the camera for this one. All of this isn’t to say it’s not enjoyable, and these five likeable guys aren’t fun to spend some time with (even Martin Scorsese rocks up backstage telling the guys he’s a fan), but if you’re looking for typical Spurlock, you may leave disappointed. Or a little bewildered.

For the uninitiated, Spurlock goes back to the birth of the band on the UK talent show, The X-Factor, when Simon Cowell made an impulsive decision – and has since taken all the credit – to put the five individual singers together. The five boys eventually placed as the runner-up in the 2010 competition, but they signed on to Cowell’s Syco Records, and basically rocketed to immense popularity before they’d even cut an album (with Spurlock revealing that not even The Beatles achieved this level of success so early on in their careers). The rest of the doco follows the band on their world tour, while giving us casual peeks into their personal and family lives, and chronicling general teenage boy shenanigans.

Some may be quick to criticise the film’s innocuous tone (there’s no drinking, girlfriends or bickering), but there’s also the fact that perhaps there just isn’t a “warts-and-all” doco to be made just yet. That said, the doco’s packed with personal, poignant moments, particularly in relation to the boys and their families, with the parents lamenting that their sons haven’t been home more than a few nights since The X-Factor. There’s something bittersweet in the fact that the children are showing their parents the world in a way. Spurlock also does a nice job of carving out a portrait of each boy, without painting them as Backstreet Boy-style archetypes. And there are definitely some Spurlock touches – such as the filmmaker’s brief but comical attempt by a scientist to explain the chemical effect One Direction has on its female fan base (they’re not crazy, after all), and the concert scenes are almost enjoyably garish. Yes, they’re full of cheesy lyrics, melodies and accompanying visuals, but there's also something charmingly offbeat and almost loopy about it all; it's missing the slickness some may expect.

Perhaps the toughest bit to swallow though is when these boys talk about wanting to be remembered, but let’s not kid ourselves. These aren’t The Beatles. While never really letting the cynicism seep in too much at the edges, Spurlock reveals how the boys record their next album while on tour with the help of songwriters and producers. One of the band’s “songwriters” is seen waking up a member to come and record a line they’ve just written, with said boy adhering to the instructions, before staggering back to their slumber. They’re not songwriters. But they’re also not five fakers caught up in their own hype. Perhaps the nicest surprise of the doco is that, despite emerging from the manufactured pop machine, these boys feel refreshingly grounded and they’re not taking their success for granted. In a way, One Direction: This Is Us is simply a poignant snapshot of five young guys having the time of their lives, knowing that it won’t last forever.

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