Movie review: 'One Direction: This Is Us' captures the band just having fun

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One Directions fans are going to love "This Is Us" because the lads are predictably cute, funny and charming, and there's not a drama queen in the bunch.

And that's part of the problem.

The Justin Bieber movie "Never Say Never" had the YouTube phenom's voice breaking down before the big Madison Square Garden show. The Katy Perry film "Part of Me" had her marriage breaking down in the heat of the tour. Director Morgan Spurlock ("Super Size Me") has no conflict whatsoever to drive a plot for this tour souvenir. We're left to be entertained by their bubblegum music, bubbly personalities and happy camaraderie.

'One Direction: This Is Us'

3 stars = Good
Ratings explained

  • Rating:

    PG for mild language.

If you've spent your life toiling to put a successful band together, or maybe just concocting get-rich schemes, you will pale at Simon Cowell's description of One Direction's formation. The five Brits, from modest upbringings, were individual contestants on the British singing show "The X Factor." When none was strong enough to advance on his own, Mr. Cowell pulled them aside and told them they were a group. "I made a decision. I made it in about five minutes." With that, the One Direction blockbuster franchise was born.

It started with a failure in another "X Factor" round that sent fans rallying to Twitter and the gates of the TV network. One D rode on that post-loss hysteria, giving the group and its fans an us-against-them underdog status that hasn't diminished.

Experts turn up to proclaim that they've never seen a boy group rise so rapidly. One goes so far as to say they have a rock edge, which is a bit of a stretch. A neuroscientist is called upon to explain that "the girls are not crazy, the girls are just excited." Meanwhile, members express just a little embarrassment about even being in a boy group. But what the hell ...

"This Is Us" hits the road for a worldwide tour interspersing concert footage with backstage high jinks. They ride skateboards, steal golf carts, dance terribly, trick fans with disguises and create a wild, screaming scene wherever they go. In Amsterdam, during a rare shopping excursion, the Nike store is mobbed by thousands of fans, requiring a rescue plan.

With five of them, there isn't much time to show the boys off with their families. But we see main heartthrob Harry Styles back working at the bakery, Zayn Malik painting in his graffiti room and buying his mom a house and a touching scene with Liam Payne's father talking about how he misses his teenage boy who is rarely home.

None of them is an amazing singer on his own, a la Justin Timberlake, but Mr. Cowell obviously had the right idea to put them together. They trade vocals and harmonize just fine on songs like "One Thing," "Live While We're Young," the new song "Best Song Ever" and "Last First Kiss," which drew gasps from the excited girls in the theater. And while the boys don't dance like Mr. Timberlake's crew, the concerts have some visual dazzle, including flying laser effects for those who fork over the extra money to go 3-D on 1-D.

The crowds appear to be about 99.9 percent female, but One Direction has at least two male fans brave enough to come on film: Chris Rock and Martin Scorsese, who turn up at the show with their kids. Mr. Scorsese pops in to the dressing room to tell them, "I've been listening to your stuff ... and I like it." (You wanna argue with the guy who directed "GoodFellas" and "The Departed"?)

Mr. Spurlock sees to it that the One Directioners are family-friendly and thoroughly likable, no more so than in a cozy campfire scene where the boys joke about a future that they realize is probably pretty short. Mr. Styles looks ahead to a time when he's "weathered, and people are asking me why I'm still alive, like Keith Richards."

For now, as we can see from "This Is Us," One Direction is bigger than Mr. Bieber and making the most of the flight.


Scott Mervis:; 412-263-2576. Twitter: @scottmervis_pg.


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