Is Morgan Spurlock selling out?
What's the rabble-rouser who made a nation focus on the destructive impact of a fast-food diet in "Super Size Me" doing directing what some might call cinematic fast food, a 3-D documentary about the boy band One Direction?
"As a documentary filmmaker, the chance to make a film of this scope and this scale about one of the biggest bands in the world -- it was impossible to say no," Spurlock said during a recent visit to San Francisco.
"The day this movie opens, it's going to be shown on more screens worldwide and be seen by more people than all of my other films combined on opening day. Why would you not want to make a movie like that?"
In fact, you could definitely say he gives the audience what it wants.
At a recent preview screening of "One Direction -- This Is Us," teenage girls screamed and swooned whenever one of the lads was shirtless -- a common occurrence. It is an upbeat, dare we say infectious film that mixes concert-performance footage filmed with eight cameras with behind-the-scenes profiles of the five teens from England -- Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson -- who were discovered by Simon Cowell on his British TV show "The X Factor" (the model for Cowell's "American Idol").
Spurlock channels his inner Richard Lester ("A Hard Day's Night") and Martin Scorsese ("The Last Waltz," "Shine a Light") as a top director who exercises a few unused muscles by making a concert film (Scorsese, in fact, makes an appearance in "This Is Us"; he brings his daughter backstage after a Madison Square Garden concert). Spurlock, who said he passed on chances to do films about Justin Bieber and Katy Perry, said he would have passed on this project as well had the boys been jerks.
"They're not -- that's the great thing," Spurlock said. "They're incredibly charming, grounded -- they come from good families. The humblest of humbling beginnings."
The lads' working-class families appear in the film, many of them still incredulous at their children's worldwide fame, and the boys themselves are hard to dislike.
"They haven't had any real Bieber-esque incidents," Spurlock said. "Will they? I don't know. When somebody starts to get a big head, there's four other guys to say, 'Hey, listen; you need to dial it back a notch.' "
Spurlock's closest moment of danger while making the movie came when the boys were accosted by a stampede of screaming fans on the streets of Amsterdam; it's a great moment in the film. The performers had to shut themselves into a shoe store and call the police to get them out safely.
"It's the closest to Beatlemania I've ever seen in my lifetime," Spurlock said. "I did watch all the Beatles films before we starting filming, and I said, 'If this can be a documentary "Hard Day's Night," then we'll accomplish something pretty great.' And I think we did that because the boys' personalities really come out."
(G. Allen Johnson is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @BRfilmsAllen.)
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.shns.com.)