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One Direction: This Is Us (3D)

2013-09-26 17:10
One Direction
What it’s about:

Three years ago Liam, Louis, Niall, Harry and Zayn were just five working class lads who entered The X Factor in the UK as hopeful solo singers – until Simon Cowell intervened, put them together to form One Direction and gave birth to one of the biggest pop groups in recent years. This, supposedly, is their story.

What we thought:

Full disclosure: I am already very much predisposed to becoming a One Direction fan in the near future. I spent much of my teens obsessed with the original boy band phenomenon Take That (yes, it was the 90s) – and witnessing the way One Direction has just exploded everywhere has made me lament even more how Take That never quite got the foothold in the US and South Africa the way 1D have.

Of course, it’s just so much easier to be a super-fan today. To get my fix of UK pop culture as a high schooler I had to regularly scour through piles of imported UK pop culture magazines that were sold by the kilo to find a four-month old copy of Smash Hits or Top of the Pops or Just17.

If I was ever able to get a glimpse into Mark, Robbie or Gary’s private lives through their Twitter or Facebook, I would have probably run off to England to follow Take That on tour and camp out on the front steps of their homes, like so many girls my age were doing at the time.

Technology - and the pervasiveness of reality TV culture - can also be attributed to how freakishly fast One Direction went from obscurity to international obsession. As Simon Cowell notes in this fly-on-the-wall rockumentary about his protégés, the band were sending young fans into hysterics and they hadn’t even released any material yet.

At its ADHD-afflicted centre, One Direction: This is Us is a love letter to their army of fans and it is they who motivate the boys to keep going (other than their iron-clad contracts with Cowell). They are wowed by all the outpouring of love they are greeted with around the world. They put on a good show. They know it could all have been so different had it not been for The X Factor.

They’re a group of young, cheeky boys who are still in amazement that they are able to command this kind of fandom as they tour the US, all corners of Europe, Australia and Japan - and yet it all feels fleeting.

Despite not really knowing each other three years ago and only being thrown together into this situation on a whim, the boys are clearly good mates who are having the time of their lives – and are living the very embodiment of the YOLO generation.

As for their individual musical aspirations, that remains a mystery. This is Us never shies away from the fact that they are a manufactured product so when they sing One Way or Another (Teenage Kicks) – a mashup of two classic 70s pop punk songs – it’s sounds young and vital and now, which is how it should be.

Niall plays guitar on stage and Louis can tickle the keys competently but the lyrics they emote with such conviction come courtesy of a bank of songwriters.

They monkey around a lot and get to live a life they could only have dreamed of that day they each lined up with thousands of other X Factor wannabes.

Director Morgan Spurlock, who famously ate his way to affecting change in the way McDonald’s market their product in his documentary Super Size Me, pretty much sticks to the script outline of similar musical documentaries Katy Perry: Part of Me and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.

If you’re a fan you are going to thrill at every second of this light, bright adventure. If you’re just curious, you’ll likely come away with a newfound admiration for the band.

We get a look into their family lives with some poignant and downright heartbreaking testimonial from each boys’ still-young-themselves parents. Zayn (the really cute one) buys his mom her first home. Harry seems to have grown up in a pastoral paradise. Liam’s father is left helpless at having lost his only son to the pop-star-making machine.

Louis can only marvel at seeing 1D lunchboxes for sale at the very Toys R Us he used to work at. Niall lives up to all the Irish stereotypes and is the most happy-go-lucky chap in the world.

The boys’ live concert shot in 3D at the O2 Arena in London is where they truly shine. Their vocals are impressive, the dance moves non-existent, and the many many shots of hyper-excited, screaming young fans is both entertaining and scary.

The true impact that 1D will have on the pop music landscape remains to be seen. They’re still figuring this pop star business out and are green enough to love and appreciate every moment of it. We may as well enjoy it all along with them.

They’re cute, they sing like angels but they can’t dance, they are the biggest band in the world - and they still can’t believe it. The One Direction story is here to give you FOMO.

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