Movie review: 'One Direction: This is Us'

The Fresno BeeAugust 28, 2013 

From left, Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, Zayn Mailik and Naill Horan in TriStar Pictures' "One Direction:This Is Us."


One Direction (insert massive screaming here).

The mere mention of the British boy band — a group cobbled together by Simon Cowell — triggers ear-splitting shouts of joy. While the band has performed around the globe, there are millions of loyal fans who've not had the chance to sit with fellow fans of Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik and Louis Tomlinson and scream themselves into tears.

Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock has come up with the next best thing. His "One Direction: This Is Us" is a melodic blend of concert footage and behind-the-scenes moments that range from comical to touching. Spurlock doesn't just rely on the inherent popularity of the boy band. Instead, he strips away the hysteria to offer a glimpse of the guys to go with the energetic stage shows.

Making a movie that heralds the latest pop sensation doesn't seem to fit in the Spurlock lexicon of documentary subjects. He's the guy who rolled cameras as he went on a steady diet of a McDonald's menu for a month to show the ills of fast food in "Super Size Me." His "POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" took a jab at product placement in movies and TV shows.

It's that perspective that elevates "One Direction: This Is Us." Through a mix of interviews with the band members and their family, Spurlock has created a reminder that in the middle of the mania that surrounds the group are five guys who have become best friends. They didn't just spring from the thoughts of the musical muses (unless you consider Cowell to be a muse). They have families who miss them deeply, lives before stardom that included menial jobs and deep commitments to the work.

Spurlock doesn't shortchange the musical performances. He takes the viewer from front-row seats to a perspective so close to the group that it feels like the audience is the sixth member of the band. The energy Spurlock shows in the camera movement and editing is in step with a One Direction performance, which starts fast and only builds speed.

Most of the time, 3-D comes across as a gimmick to get more money out of moviegoers. The visual trickery works well with concert footage because it makes sitting in a movie theater feel like a concert experience. It might even be better because of the intimate way the camera captures each performance.

There's nothing that's going to completely replace being with thousands of screaming One Direction fans at a concert. But Spurlock offers an exceptional surrogate with this film. In the world of concert movies, "One Direction: This Is Us" is top of the charts.

Liam PayneZayn MalikHarry StylesNiall HoranLouis Tomlinson Movie review

"One Direction: This Is Us," unrated. Stars Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson. Directed by Morgan Spurlock. Running time: 92 minutes. Grade: B+


TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at

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