You could be forgiven for rolling your eyes last summer at the news that flashy prefab pop phenomenon One Direction would be releasing a concert documentary this summer.
Forgiven by everyone save their fans, who might pout at the suggestion that one summer’s boy-band craze is the next summer’s old news. But “One Direction: This is Us” still has a popularity wave to ride a full year after “What Makes You Beautiful” and “Live While We’re Young” dominated the airwaves. So stop the eye-rolling.
This film captures the five British lads hand-picked by Simon Cowell to go where NKOTB, Boyz II Men, Backstreet Boys and ’N Sync have gone before — up the charts and into arenas around the world. It’s not that different from the Justin Bieber doc, or the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus concert films — sanitized, packaged — presenting these five British or Irish boys, ages 19-21, as paragons of pop virtue while others vouch for what “rebels” they are and that they have “edge.”
We see Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson bonding on a tour bus across Europe, a camping trip in Sweden and the occasional stroll down a street — until they’re recognized and mobbed.
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It’s a chipper, cheerful portrait with nary a discouraging word in it. The tunes are catchy, and the boys have charm, a little wit about them and some stage presence even if their shows have all the spontaneity of a McDonald’s menu. Not that their fans want to hear that, or hear that they have a limited shelf life. Oh no. They never let us forget that it’s a teenage girls’ world. We’re all just wearing earplugs in it.