Susan Granger’s review of “One Direction: This is Us” (Columbia Tri Star Pictures/Sony)
Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock first catapulted into the national spotlight in 2004, when he stuffed himself with McDonald’s hamburgers in “Super Size Me,” followed by “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” tweaking corporate sponsorship and product placement, and “Comic-Con, Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope.” Those were quirky, irreverent, subversive escapades. Now he’s cashing into a global pop music phenomenon, having made an authorized, relatively staid concert documentary of the wildly popular, British/Irish boy band called One Direction.
Filmed during One Direction’s 2012-2013 world tour, it encompasses live footage from more than 100 shows, encompassing London’s 02 Arena and stops in Europe, Asia, Australia, Mexico and North America, including Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden and Los Angeles’ Staples Center. In addition, Spurlock superficially profiles the five, slouching, working-class “lads,” ranging in age from 19 to 21. There’s mop-topped Harry Styles, bland Louis Tomlinson, generous Zayn Malik (who buys his mother a house), acoustic guitar-playing Niall Horan and heavily-accented Liam Payne – chronicling their unlikely beginning in 2010, when they were matched as mates by production Svengali Simon Cowell on “The X-Factor” competition, their wildly enthusiastic fans, and their adjustment to fame and fortune. Like having Chris Rock, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Martin Scorsese drop by, exuding enthusiasm, and reportedly selling more than 13 million albums worldwide, including their 2012 hit “Take Me Home.”
Unlike other pop music documentaries, there’s no drinking, smoking, drugs or sex. Hard partying seems to be verboten, along with any mention of Harry Styles’ brief fling with songbird Taylor Swift. But – then again – it is duly ‘authorized’ under clean-cut Pepsi sponsorship and was vetted not only by Columbia TriStar but also by Syco Records, which is Simon Cowell’s production company, along with the quintet’s management. So make of that what you will.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 1, “One Direction: This is Us” is a squealing, screaming, somewhat insipid 6, a glossy, promotional concept that’s overly enhanced by unnecessary amplification.