'One Direction: This Is Us': What the Critics are Saying
Chart-topping British boy band One Direction storms into theaters this week as the star of a 3D concert documentary.
But despite claims that the film gives viewers an all-access pass into the lives of Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson, Harry Styles, Liam Payne and Zayn Malik, including a close-up look at their world tour, critics find the footage too sanitized.
The Hollywood Reporter's Justin Lowe notes, "Scenes featuring their predominantly teen female fans are limited to crowd shots and brief sound bites, while any footage revealing smoking, partying or romance has been studiously excluded."
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While Lowe calls the scenes of the band performing "fairly standard fare," he thinks the documentary succeeds in its portrayal of the band members, but that's largely due to their personalities.
"The filmmakers' intent to depict them as 'normal guys' mostly succeeds, primarily due to their not inconsiderable charm," Lowe writes.
The nonconcert footage, featuring the band members cutting up, dodging rabid fans or making promotional footage, doesn't appear as spontaneous as one might expect.
"These confessional 'unstaged' moments feel more choreographed than the group's dance moves," Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty writes.
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Critics also take issue with director Morgan Spurlock's surprisingly restrained approach.
"Overall, Spurlock plays things incredibly safely compared to his usual irreverent, hang-loose style," Lowe writes.
Nashawaty agrees, writing: "If anyone could have given us an inside look at the guys in the band, it's a subversive filmmaker like Spurlock. But This Is Us comes off as an impersonal job for hire -- a paycheck assignment. Spurlock seems too scared to bite the hands that are feeding him (although he claims he didn't have final cut)."
"Instead, we're treated to what's essentially a slick, airbrushed promo reel of a bunch of genuinely sweet superstars who can't believe their dumb luck," he adds. "That's charming. But it's also a little boring. What it's most definitely not is a documentary."
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Time Out London critic Cath Clarke writes, "What's the opposite of warts-n-all? 'No warts' doesn’t even begin to describe Morgan Spurlock's fly-on-the-wall film about One Direction. No warts, no acne – there's not even a pimple on the butt of this on-tour portrait of the reality-bred boy popsters (girlfriends or boyfriends or whatever, have been airbrushed out entirely)."
USA Today's Claudia Puig is mystified why the Super Size Me director signed on for the project, asking: "Why hire a personality like Spurlock and not employ him to do what he does best -- wry, satirical analysis?"
Indeed, reviewers claim the film will be appealing to the legions of screaming fans despite them already knowing more about the boy band than the documentary presents.
"Most of One D's largely female fan base already knows -- or thinks it knows -- more about the singers than this film offers up," Puig writes. "But for the masses it's a reasonably intriguing, if rather sanitized, look at these seemingly likable young entertainers."
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Nashawaty takes it further, bashing the "new breed of movies … that pretend to give rabid fans (and their heel-dragging parents) a privileged peek behind the curtain. But all they really offer are sanitized, squeaky-clean affirmations of what these pop juggernauts' fans already know."
But the New York Daily News' Jim Farber was intrigued by the film's ability to convey the young bandmembers' sense of exhaustion and isolation.
"Lurking in Morgan Spurlock's otherwise boostery documentary is a sense of isolation and exhaustion surrounding its dewy subjects," he writes. "The director heightens the effect by featuring many shots of the guys flat on their backs -- asleep in hallways, venues, and buses, often stripped to the waist."
That footage "lends a hint of honesty, and even empathy, to a film that, otherwise, often plays like just a promo job for the pop stars of the hour," Farber writes.