[Screen It]


(2013) (Documentary) (PG)

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Documentary/Concert Film: A look at the "boy band" One Direction as they travel around the world on their latest tour.
Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock takes a look at the "boy band" One Direction -- comprised of Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson -- as they travel around the world on their latest tour. Along the way, we learn about the band's origins, their music, their rabid fan base, and their outlook on their sudden fame.
OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
All sorts of duos warrant the old chicken or egg came first examination. One that few have likely pondered is which came first: Crazed teenage girls or the bands or solo teen heartthrob artists that drive them into a frenzy. Whoever got there first, there's no denying that the next best thing to horror films and unexpected bugs to get such girls screaming are such music acts. On my birth day, the Beatles were doing just that to young girls, both in the audience of the Ed Sullivan theater and elsewhere in front of TV sets all across America.

Before them, Elvis did the same. After them there was David Cassidy, Peter Frampton, Menudo, the Backstreet Boys, N'Sync and countless others. The latter three helped popularize the "boy band" music genre and the latest group of young men to dominate that is One Direction. Discovered on Britain's "The X Factor" when they auditioned separately and before knowing one another, they initially were eliminated from the competition.

But judge Simon Cowell (best known for his role on "American Idol") saw something in the young men and assembled Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson into a new group and put them back on the show. While they didn't ultimately win (they came in third), the fuse of their fan base of crazed girls was already lit. The resultant explosion lead to a record deal, two album releases and now their very own movie, "One Direction: This is Us."

Hoping to capitalize on that rabid fan base, TriStar believes the film can follow in the footsteps of other music documentaries such as "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never," "Michael Jackson's This Is It," and "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour." Whether that will happen is anyone's guess (after all, "Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience" didn't catch on), but considering how our preview screening audience -- comprised of 99% giddy female tweens and young teens -- reacted when the lights went down and this 3D film started, there could be gold in them thar boy band hills (or, more accurately, bare torsos as most if not all of the band members are seen sans shirts at various points, all the better to excite the girls even more).

Interestingly enough, they settled down after the first five minutes or so, and were fairly quiet for the rest of the film's 95-some minutes, thus allaying my pre-start fears of damaged eardrums and estrogen permeated air overload. With a decent amount of applause at the end (but nowhere matching the start), it's hard to say if they were just overwhelmed to the point of near exhaustion or actually ended up bored. I'm guessing the former as director Morgan Spurlock (who subjected himself to nothing but McDonalds food for 30 days in order to make "Super Size Me") deploys a gazillion camera shots and fast edits of the guys, along with the occasional overlay of 3D objects not originally found in the concert footage.

Following them around on an international tour (several city appearances and performances are shown), Spurlock intersperses that footage with a brief back-history of the band (where I learned the "X Factor" story -- what, did you think I was some sort of closet fan?), interviews with the individual band mates and some family members, and various shots of backstage rehearsals, goofing around and the worn and passed out guys. And by passed out I mean dog-tired and not from any substance issues as this is a fairly squeaky clean representation of the quintet.

I have no idea if there's more to them than meets the eye, but you have to imagine they're not quite as sanitized as shown here (notwithstanding some of their song lyrics, although those pale in comparison to many of their contemporaries). Notwithstanding that, they come off as a charming bunch, no doubt part real and part studio/handlers fabrication. The music isn't my cup of tea yet is occasionally catchy. But comparisons to the Beatles -- referenced here in terms of how many countries One Direction has been number one in -- don't and won't ever fair well to these relative newcomers.

Then again, maybe they'll find their own George Martin (the Fab Four's most excellent producer) and perhaps their own version of mind altering experiences (if they follow in the footsteps of their predecessors) and turn into something truly magnificent. Only time will tell, but for now One Direction is likely headed for a similar fate as Leif Garrett, The Knack and The Bay City Rollers, acts that briefly lit up the entertainment world and then burned out.

As far as the documentary goes, it's okay but otherwise unremarkable, and it's certainly not the near religious experience that was "U2 3D." In other words, if you scream upon hearing the band's name or any of their songs, you'll probably love it. If you don't, well, there's always a good Beatles album to listen to. "One Direction: This is Us" rates as a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed August 7, 2013 / Posted August 30, 2013

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