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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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Pretty tame. Words like "kick-ass," "butt," "suck," and "pissed" are as strong as it gets, but they're each used only once.
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Products & Purchases
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.
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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.