The American Mall

Movie review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
The American Mall Movie Poster Image
Cute musical sells songs -- and merchandise.
  • NR
  • 2008
  • 100 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The central message is about staying true to yourself and not selling out. There are obvious villains, to be sure, but everyone gets along in the end.

Violence
Sex

Some kissing, and a music video shoot gets semi-sexy. The male lead is also shown with his shirt off and, later, in just his underwear. The only other incident is a comical scene in which a girl eats a hot dog, which makes a guy nervous.

Language

Pretty tame. Words like "kick-ass," "butt," "suck," and "pissed" are as strong as it gets, but they're each used only once.

Consumerism

MTV and Sears struck a special deal, allowing the Sears logo and merchandise to be prominently featured in the film. Characters also model clothing that came exclusively from Sears. The fact that the movie is set in a mall opens up the floodgates in terms of embedded brands. You'll see plugs for Yamaha, Pepsi, Pro-Mark (drumsticks), Pretzelmaker (fast food), NordicTrack, MasterCuts (hair salon), Payless Shoe Source, Gap, Finish Line (athletic wear), Clean & Clear, Ben & Jerry's, Hello Kitty, Aeropostale, and Charlotte Russe.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that MTV is positioning this made-for-TV movie as its answer to Disney's High School Musical, though it ages up a bit thanks to the main characters' more physical relationship (they kiss). The movie's central message -- that staying true to yourself is good and selling out is bad -- is a valuable one for impressionable tweens. That said, there are an awful lot of attempts to target young viewers with blatant product placement: Thanks to the mall setting, the list of featured brand names is extensive. There's a small amount of mild sexuality, too, but language is pretty tame.

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What's the story?

Inside THE AMERICAN MALL, an aspiring singer-songwriter named Ally (Nina Dobrev) finds herself falling for a cute custodian named Joey (Rob Mayes), a musically gifted guy who seems to "get" her in every sense of the word. But the mall owner's spoiled daughter, Madison (Autumn Reeser), has her eye on Joey, too -- with plans to use him as a prop to sell her new line of designer clothing. In the process of getting what she wants, Madison also tries to shut down the music store that's owned and operated by Ally's mother (Yassmin Alers), who was once a talented musician in her own right.

Is it any good?

This cute movie is the creative brainchild of the same team that dreamed up High School Musical, so it seems to follow that it will appeal to tweens and teens, especially those who love musicals. And as romantic leads, Dobrev and Mayes aren't just attractive but also likeable -- and they're talented, too. Either one of them could have a music career (and they probably will). Dobrov, especially, has a pitch-perfect pop voice that's reminiscent of Michelle Branch or Vanessa Carlton. (Mayes' pipes are a little more rock 'n' roll, in the vein of Adam Pascal of Rent.)

If you rolled your eyes at High School Musical for its cheesy lyrics, spontaneous dance numbers, and sugar-coated approach to high school romance, you'll have the same problems with American Mall. But while you're dissing it, be warned: You might just find yourself humming one of the movie's infectiously catchy songs.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether they think this musical will catch on like wildfire and spawn its own multimedia franchise, a la High School Musical. Does the movie offer an accurate portrayal of teens and twentysomethings? Why or why not? Do any aspects of the plot seem far-fetched? Parents can also test kids' media-savviness by asking them how many brand names they spotted over the course of the movie -- and which ones stuck out the most. Do you think there's a reason some were featured more prominently than others?

Movie details

For kids who love musicals

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