One Direction - This Is Us (3D) (PG)

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Review byMatthew Turner29/08/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 92 mins

One Direction - This Is Us (3D) is an entertaining concert-tour doc that does a great job of presenting the boys as likeable down-to-earth types and showcasing both their singing ability and the scale of the One Direction phenomenon, but it's also painstakingly packaged and relentlessly on-message with a frustrating lack of information about what's really going on behind the scenes.

What's it all about?
Directed by acclaimed documentarian Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), One Direction - This Is Us (3D) is a concert-tour documentary following boy band and current global phenomenon One Direction (Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Zayn Malik) over the course of their 2012-13 world tour, during which they played more than 100 shows.

After a brief run-through of their background (the boys auditioned individually for The X-Factor and were put together as a band by Simon Cowell), the film settles into concert sequences of the boys performing all their hits (plus a couple of entertaining covers, such as Wheatus' Teenage Dirtbag) interspersed with to-camera interviews with each of the boys and backstage material of the band dodging fans, clowning around, annoying their security team, playing pranks (such as dressing up and interacting with fans while in disguise), hanging out on their tour bus and so on. There are also numerous interviews with the boys' families and a handful of sequences where they go back to their home towns on one of their rare breaks from the touring schedule.

The Good
One Direction - This Is Us (3D) does an excellent job of presenting the boys as likeable, hard-working and fun-loving lads who seem remarkably down-to-earth, under the circumstances. Similarly, the concert scenes are entertaining (enhanced by some impressive digital effects that come into their own in 3D) and the boys' singing abilities are impressively showcased, even if they cheerfully admit that they're terrible dancers and only one member of the band (Niall) appears to be able to play an instrument.

In addition, the film gives a good sense of the bewildering and occasionally terrifying scale of the phenomenon and what it's like to be at the centre of it; in this, if nothing else, the band merit the comparisons with the Beatles. Spurlock even attempts to explain their effect on teenage girls by wheeling on a neuroscientist, though the film mostly avoids such humorous touches after that, unless you count a hilarious, unexpected moment when Martin Scorsese brings his daughter to visit the band backstage and they don't appear to know who he is.

The Bad
The problem with One Direction - This Is Us (3D) is that Spurlock (who never appears in the film, contrary to his usual style) stays relentlessly, resolutely on-message throughout – there's no hint of smoking, drinking, girlfriends, groupies or partying, for example, and the boys aren't even caught swearing on camera. Even the supposedly candid moments (such as Zayn's mother's tearful reaction after he buys her a house) are as carefully packaged and emotionally manipulative (though no less effective) as a similar segment on The X-Factor.

As such, there's no hint of the genuine behind-the-scenes machinations involved in managing a boy band (tellingly, you never see a manager or an agent); consequently the most interesting moments are the tiny hints of the personal costs of sudden global fame and fortune, such as the father of one of the boys lamenting that he never gets to spend time with his son anymore.

Worth seeing?
One Direction - This Is Us (3D) does an excellent job of giving the fans what they want and remains both watchable and entertaining for newcomers, though it's a shame the film doesn't dig a little deeper.

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Content updated: 16/06/2019 10:48

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