If you're an adult like me, you probably have the same feelings about being dragged kicking and screaming into a documentary about teen heartthrobs like the guys in One Direction. But when you're a critic and willing to take lumps as part of the job, sometimes -- just sometimes -- those low expectations end up helping you mine a sparkling diamond in the rough.
Directed by "Super Size Me" filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, "One Direction: This Is Us" follows the British boy band -- Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan and Zayn Malik -- around the world as they continue their staggering success worldwide. The great thing is, it's not a straight-up concert film (there's plenty of music, to be sure), but a behind-the-scenes look at the five British lads along with the incredible but true back story of how five strangers were thrown together on a whim by music impresario Simon Cowell after the guys failed to make the cut on the U.K. version of "The X Factor" in 2010.
While Spurlock under-employs the sort of clever film tricks that made "Super Size Me" so unique (apart from a scene where a neurologist playfully delves into the human brain to see what makes the groups' fans tick), the documentarian is still successful in his straight-up approach of deconstructing each singer while examining the dynamics that hold them together as a tight-knit group. In between, of course, there are the scenes with screaming and crying fans, and all of the sort of mushy stuff that make this a critic-proof movie for its target audience.
See the trailer for "One Direction: This Is Us" below.
The great thing is, after shooting more than 930 hours of combined concert and behind the scenes footage over a six-month period, Spurlock pulls together a consistent story where the guys come off as genuinely likable, very funny and truly appreciative to be where they're at. Perhaps it's because they have each other to lean on as a sort of family in the isolated world they live in on the road, and better yet because they haven't forgotten their humble beginnings.
There's no doubt that the guys of One Direction are a respectful lot -- far from the likes of the obnoxious Miley Cyrus , the immature Taylor Swift and the pompous Justin Bieber. While the guys in One Direction appear intent on leaving a positive stamp on the people that helped them reach the top, their overgrown counterparts are clearly more concerned about looking out for No. 1 as they examine more and more foolish ways to draw attention to themselves.
While adults likely won't be clicking into iTunes and downloading One Direction songs at will after they consume "This Is Us," there's no doubt that they'll come away with a greater appreciation of the band. After all, thanks to some entertaining behind-the-scenes pranks and energetic concert performances, it's easy to get caught up in the positive energy emitting from the One Direction fans in the audience -- even if you haven't heard any of the band's songs your entire life (unlikely if your a parent of teens).
Better yet, though, you can't help but be impressed with the guys' level of maturity (they range in age from 19-21), and how introspective they are about their inevitable tumble from the top of the charts.
Until then, thanks to the openness and honesty displayed "This Is Us," let's hope they experience all the success they have coming to them. While One Direction is not The Beatles, it's still great to see how they are intent on influencing their fans in a thoughtful manner, and enjoying the hell out of what they're doing in the process. They're just good people who were lucky to find their destinies in a most extraordinary way. How can you not root for people like that?
"One Direction: This Is Us," rated PG, 3 1/2 stars out of four.
What other local critics are saying ...
Chris Hewitt of the Pioneer Press gives the film 3 stars, saying, "it's unlikely, for instance, that these guys always love each other as much as the film shows. Even so, the engaging visit with the five members of One Direction leaves you with the impression that it couldn't have happened to nicer guys."
Bring Me The News film critic Tim Lammers is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he also reviews films on “KARE 11 News at 11.” As a feature writer, Tim has interviewed well over 1,000 major actors and filmmakers throughout his career and his work is syndicated nationwide.