Screaming fans head to theaters for ‘One Direction: This Is Us’

Englishmen Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson and lone Irish lad Niall Horan must be the most popular young men in the world.

Members of scream- and sigh-inducing singing group, One Direction, all of the above star in “One Direction: This Is Us,” a concert film and documentary that shows the group on stage in front of thousands of frenzied fans, backstage, on the tour bus, in the recording studio and, in a few rare instances, home for a fleeting visit.

“One Direction: This Is Us” makes especially effective use of its 3D effects during the film’s periodic concert scenes. At a preview screening in New Orleans last week, a theater full of girls approximately 8 to their early teens screamed whenever their idols seemingly loomed out of the screen.

Girls at the preview also expressed their delight when the cameras occasionally showed semi-dressed members of One Direction in dressing room and hotel scenes. The film contains several shirtless glimpses.

Without quite becoming hagiography, “One Direction: This Is Us” keeps a mostly light touch. It includes an account of the swift rise to fame the group experienced after Simon Cowell, a judge for Britain’s 2010 season of “The X Factor,” put these originally solo singers in one group.

Cowell’s idea worked from the first time the guys got together at Harry Styles’ dad’s house. On camera, Cowell says that he was stunned by just how popular the group became.

“The fans made it their mission that One Direction was going to be the biggest group in the world,” he recalls. For example, one fan says she promoted her new faves via 16,000 tweets.

From Britain, One Direction’s popularity spread to Europe, to the United States and the world, even before the group released a record.

After covering the origin of One Direction, the film mostly functions as a tour diary interspersed with performances. It’s largely innocuous stuff, with the group, members of its crew and the fans all having their say.

“When we’re on tour,” security guy Preston Mahon says of his horsing-around charges, “they’re just normal boys who like to play.”

The tour visits New York City, The Netherlands, France, Italy, Tokyo and Spain. In Mexico City, One Direction performs for 65,000. In Amsterdam, the guys are spotted on the street and then trapped by a sudden swarm of girls.

Some genuinely moving scenes arrive when One Direction flies members of their families from England and Ireland to New York for the group’s concert at Madison Square Garden. One tearful mom says, “You’re so proud, you feel like your heart could burst.”

Another scene captures Zayn Malik phoning his mum to ask her how much she likes the new house he has bought her. A good son, indeed.

For older audiences, “One Direction: This Is Us” covers familiar teen idol territory, but many of the group’s young fans may never have seen a music documentary. The film doesn’t earn a place among the great music documentaries, but it presents its stars in 3D immediacy that likely will inspire screams and sighs, oohs and ahs, wherever movies are shown.