They represent the height of American surplus and greed, vast, homogenized spaces where old ladies power-walk and young ladies congregate. If there's one place nobody ever burns with the desire to express their individuality, to break out into song and dance, it's got to be an American shopping mall.
Well, either that or a high school.
Comparisons between "The American Mall" and the wildly successful "High School Musical" franchise aren't just coincidental but entirely expected, the cast told MTV News at the red carpet for their film, which premieres on MTV on Monday. There's the spontaneous singing and dancing, of course, and the fact that both projects were masterminded by the same team of producers.
But "American Mall" differs from its more famous cousin in important ways, castmembers insisted, especially with a more sophisticated tone and soundtrack. Compare it to "High School Musical" and the original begins to look so, well, high school.
"It's a little sexier than 'High School Musical,' a little edgier," "American Mall" co-star Blythe Auffarth said. "We deal with more adult issues. It's closer to home for maybe older groups of individuals, like [those] beginning years of college."
"It's not quite as poppy," co-star Autumn Reeser added. "It's sexier."
That means opportunities for the cast to slink and seduce suggestively, with songs that recall the double entendres of something like "Grease" rather than the Disney-approved lyrics in "HSM."
But moreover, and of particular joy to the actors, they said, is that it gives them opportunities to portray realistic characters with real hopes and dreams and problems. Real characters who occasionally break into song and dance, of course, but real characters nonetheless.
"I play Ally Shepherd, who's an aspiring singer/songwriter. She's just like your average 18-year-old girl, but she has a [problem where] she can't finish her songs, and life isn't going well until she meets this janitor Joey [played by Rob Mayes] who's able to finish her songs and inspires her to write more music," Nina Dobrev said of her character, who is the focus of the film.
Ally soon finds herself in competition with the Machiavellian Madison (Reeser) for Joey's love. It's not if things work out in the end that cast says ultimately set "American Mall" apart, but how.
"It's about finding yourself and doing what you want to do and being true to yourself," Mayes said. "And I think [for] a lot of people it's difficult to do that."
And, as it turns out, you can't buy that in a store.
"American Mall" premieres on MTV on Monday at 9 p.m. ET.
Check out everything we've got on "The American Mall."
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