MRR Review: "One Direction: This Is Us"

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing

MRR Review: "One Direction: This Is Us"

Rating: PG (mild language)
Length: 92 minutes
Release Date: Aug. 30, 2013
Directed by: Morgan Spurlock
Genre: Documentary/Music

"One Direction: This Is Us" introduces the audience to the band One Direction, or 1D for short, an all-boy group from London that made it big thanks to the British version of the talent show "The X Factor." The film starts with a recap of how Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson, Harry Styles, Liam Payne, and Zayn Malik first came into the public limelight. Archival footage of their appearance on "The X Factor" along with new interview footage from head judge Simon Cowell is included so that fans can reminisce and parents can catch up on how 1D came to be.

After signing with Cowell's record label, the boys put out an album called "Up All Night" and toured aggressively in support of it. They steadily rose to fame outside of the UK, becoming a teen sensation across the globe that only Justin Bieber could rival. The new footage begins shortly after the release of the 2012 album "Take Me Home." The tour for this second album reached over 100 cities over the course of a year, and the cameras were there to record not just concert footage (some of which is in 3-D) but also backstage interviews and shenanigans.

It is in the backstage footage that the audience really gets to see some individual personalities. Each group member gets to talk about where he came from, and a few even provide glimpses of their childhood homes and where they live now. Though their lifestyle is now fairly indulgent due to their monetary success, the boys come off as mostly humble. They certainly work hard, rehearsing songs and dance steps to the point of exhaustion on occasion. They also really embrace their fans, with a lucky few getting to be on camera for the film. Though the concert footage is where the excitement is, the personal moments are the ones that resonate the most and give a better look at who the members of the band really are.

Ever since the Backstreet Boys and N'Sync started to fade out in the late 1990s, there hasn't been a rash of boy bands to hit the mainstream. Sure, a few might have popped up here and there with a catchy tune, but many of them left the pop culture consciousness as quickly as they came. That doesn't seem to be the case with One Direction, a band that has shown some real staying power. The fact that they have branched out to really conquer the world and become famous beyond their native England is a sign that perhaps pop culture is ready again to embrace boy bands. A few imitators are trying to capitalize on the success of the band, but there's really only one One Direction, as this film helps to show. The boys of this band have a certain star quality that can't be taught, and they show it off quite a bit during the film.

Director Morgan Spurlock is a bit of a surprising choice to helm the film, since it is a huge departure from the norm for him. This is very much a documentary like his previous films, but in the past, he has taken on heavy subjects such as obesity and fast food in "Super Size Me." He has always been somewhat political or at least has challenged social mores in the past, but that's not what he is doing here. Despite the departure from his comfort zone, Spurlock manages to make a good film that shows he can do more than just pose social questions—he can make a film that is pure entertainment. In another big departure for him, Spurlock doesn't actually appear anywhere in the film, though his presence is felt in the production values of the film by those familiar with his previous work. He also makes great use of 3-D technology for those viewers who choose to see the film in that format.

Some really great concert films have been made in the past, such as Madonna's "Truth or Dare" and U2's "Rattle and Hum." Those film showed stars who were at the height of their fame, having already released multiple albums and racked up awards and accolades. "One Direction: This Is Us" takes the audience on a journey that shows the band from the moment it became famous right up to the present day. The overall feeling is of a band that is still on the rise and has yet to really reach the zenith of its success. That sets the film apart from other concert movies, making it an interesting watch even for those who aren't already fans of the band.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5