Why Does the “Unauthorized” One Direction Documentary Sound Like Fluffy Propaganda?

By  · Published on November 5th, 2013

One Direction

If this year’s Morgan Spurlock “documentary” about UK pop whiz kids One Direction didn’t seem beefy enough or juicy enough or some other adjective that can also be applied to food (cheesy enough? No, there’s no way it could get much cheesier than Spurlock’s glorified and dumbed down commercial for the mega-popular boy band) for your tastes, you just might be in luck. We’ve got two words for you – unauthorized documentary.

That’s right, 2013 is the year of One Direction docs, and now a fully unauthorized is prepped to whiz right at your eyeballs, though presumably with less panache than Spurlock’s One Direction: This Is Us. Is it still them? We have no idea, but we know that whatever it is/whoever it is, it will be unauthorized. But what difference will an “unauthorized documentary” have on anything if said unauth-doc sounds just as damn fizzy, light, and silly as the year’s fully authorized outing.

Word on the project hit our inboxes this morning in the form of a press release touting the project’s DVD and digital release (December 10th, if you’re looking for holidays presents for the tweens in your life), a release that made zero mention of the actual talent behind the camera and only provided an unshakable sense that One Direction: Reaching for the Stars hasn’t used its unauthorized tag to dig for anything of actual interest or illumination.

The release’s subheading proclaims, “A Pop Fairytale Unfolds in Revealing, Unofficial Biography,” which is the sort of tagline that could have just as easily gone alongside Spurlock’s film. The awkward information continues to flow, with the release promising that the film “reveals the story of how five handsome, talented young men from the U.K. – Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne – took the world by storm, selling over 29 million records world-wide.” Handsome and talented? What kind of unauthorized documentary is this?

The release continues maddeningly on: “As One Direction leads the new British invasion in the U.S. with their feel-good music – a frenzy unseen since The Beatles – insiders disclose how Simon Cowell has guided their meteoric rise since their explosive debut on The X Factor.” The film also promises to reveal “what makes the pop idols really tick, baring secrets behind each personality and detailing why their romances continue to make headlines worldwide.” So it’s like a Bop magazine come to life? Will we also learn about the boys’ favorite colors? Will we finally find out who likes fish and chips more? Which Beatle is Harry’s favorite?!

Oddly enough, This Is Us and Reaching for the Stars are not the year’s only One Direction documentaries – there is yet another “unofficial” doc out there, this one titled Life on Stage, which sounds strangely like Reaching for the Stars, with a bent to pumping up the band and their hardworking habits. Is there no dirt to dig about 1D? Is that possible? Is One Direction so squeaky clean that they require three entire documentaries to proclaim their talents? Honestly, we have no idea, because even the unauthorized docs refuse to go for the (well-honed, teenaged) guts.

Spurlock’s film ultimately felt like long-form commercial for the dudes, mincing in fuzzy and fizzy interviews with admittedly impressive concert footage, all of which seemed to exist in order to make the band look cool, hip, and talented – and none of which gave any actual insight into the guys themselves. Sure, there were brief moments of reflection – very, very brief – and a handful of interviews with their families hinted at the difficulty in letting your child travel the world as one-fifth of a bestselling commodity, but the film was essentially a glorified concert film, not a documentary.

I endured Spurlock’s film (and endured is truly the only suitable word here) and found that, even as a non-fan with cursory knowledge of the group, I didn’t learn anything new about the boys and their lives. A dissertation on the shackles of fame this was not and, more than that, it didn’t seem to want to be. It was fluff, through and through, and now it’s getting a pair of pals to join it on the DVD shelf. The One Direction fan in your life may be happy, but the cinephile simply sighs.