Elsewhere in the lodge, a father and son are on a basketball court. A basketball court at a ski lodge? That seems a bit counterintuitive, but I'll assume it's inside the lodge, because of the completely inconspicuous signs with arrows pointing to the "LODGE" and "SKI RENTAL".
And which way to the insipid, tired plot?
The father tells his son, "Keep working left, Troy!" Dad says Troy will need to do various indecipherable sports lingo-type things in order to "torch" the competition at the upcoming "championship game". Enter a woman who's presumably Troy's mom. She's dressed in a fancy evening dress, which is a marked contrast to the guys in their sweats.
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"Okay, Troy, and if the point guard grabs your ass like this, what do you do, huh? Huh?"
Dad continues to yell stuff at Troy about taking things "downtown". Mom calls out to her "boys", complaining that they came all this way just to play more basketball. I sense an unhealthy obsession.
Mom reminds Dad of a New Year's Eve party they're supposed to attend, and even does a little twirl in her cocktail dress to prove it. She tells Troy there's also a "kid's party", which might be the only social event that sounds lamer than a "teen party". She quickly corrects herself, saying it's for "young adults".
"You should go to the teen party, Troy! After all, you're at the edge of seventeen!"
The guys reluctantly leave the court, but Troy needs to make one last shot before he goes, just to show off his mad hoops skillz.
And again with the cultural osmosis thing, you're probably aware that Troy is played by Zac Efron, now a worldwide teen heartthrob superstar. He and the Jonas Brothers are currently making copies of BOP magazine fly off the supermarket checkout racks faster than Ferrero Rocher chocolates.
Before this, Zac had guest spots on TV shows and Lifetime Movies, but like Vanessa, High School Musical was his big breakout. Since then, he's had a substantial role in the Hairspray remake, but now he's set to make his debut in the big boy acting leagues as "Me" in Richard Linklater's Me and Orson Welles. Here's hoping Orson makes Zac drop acid, like he did to Peter Sellers.
Alas, we've all seen Zac's type plenty of times. Slightly effeminate, squeaky-clean, mop-headed guys with obsessive preteen female fans are really nothing new. When you think about it, there's not a whole lot of difference between Zac and, say, Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson (and Jesus, I'm dating myself). It's as reliable as the seasons: pre-pubescent girls of every decade need their non-threatening teen idols before they're ready to move on to real men who actually have body hair.
Cut to Troy entering the Teen Party. He's now wearing a suit with no tie, and his shirt is unbuttoned halfway. Who is he, a rat packer? Is he George Clooney? And the Teen Party is just as lame as ever, because they're playing a sappy pop ballad. There's nothing like Celine Dion-esque tunes to really get the party started, is there?
And, hey, look who's entering the Teen Party at exactly the same moment! It's Gabriella, again with her book in hand. She immediately sits down in a loveseat, and starts in with the reading again. I told you she loves reading! I honestly don't know much about Vanessa Hudgens' affection for literature in real life, but part of me is surprised she's holding the book right-side up. And reading it from front to back, as well. She's so totally Method.
"Ah, that Patrick Bateman can always make me smile."
And directly in front of both Troy and Gabriella is a little stage, and it turns out to be—oh please no—a karaoke stage. Really? I honestly thought this party couldn't get much more soul-destroying. Shows how much I know.
And it turns out the ballad we're hearing is allegedly being sung by two teens up on stage. They finish up their song and step down, and an emcee asks, "Who's gonna rock the house next?" That ballad rocked the house, did it? Is he sure the house can recover from the rocking it just took? He may need to call in the Army Corps of Engineers to make sure "the house" is still structurally sound.
And for no reason, other than the Script Says So, the emcee decides to pull both Troy and Gabriella out of the crowd. They even get bright spotlights on them. So, the two leads get thrown together just like that, huh? Well, at least the movie's not wasting time. In this scene, anyway. The real time-wasting comes later.
Neither Troy nor Gabriella wants to go up on stage, despite the random people pulling and tugging on them. They both swear up and down that they can't sing. Regardless, they get shoved up on stage, and the emcee (who bears an unfortunate resemblance to Kevin Federline) tells them, "Someday, you guys might thank me for this."
And then the emcee leaves, never to return in this movie. Wow, talk about a deus ex machina. Wait, do you think maybe, just maybe, this emcee character is actually... God? Think about it, won't you? What if God was one of us? Just an emcee at a teen party like one of us?
"Yo, I'll be droppin' the Rapture on y'all in a hot minute. Peace out!"
A piano starts up, playing the first few notes of a maudlin ballad called "The Start of Something New". Troy and Gabriella continue to stand there, looking awkward in front of their microphones. Suddenly, Troy starts singing, and despite all his obvious nervous tics, he's perfectly on key. Imagine that.
"Wow, my own vocals made me throw up in my mouth a little bit!"
Which is not to say he's at all pleasant to listen to. Zac Efron has got that whole Justin Timberlake-wannabe nasally pitch to his voice, of which I'm sure we're all familiar, because we've had to endure this style of singing in pop music for about a decade.
Or rather, I should say, that describes the parts of the song that Zac actually sings. As it turns out, in this movie, he actually only sings a few lines here and there. The rest of the time, he's lip syncing to a track provided by Drew Seeley. And believe me, Disney was more than content to come clean about this later, rather than sooner. The official line is that all the songs were written before Zac was cast, and they were all well outside his (limited) vocal range. But to his credit, Zac reportedly does all his own singing in the sequels.
And I'll admit, it's not immediately obvious that two different guys are singing here. But once you know about it, it's pretty hard to un-hear when Zac stops singing, and Drew comes in.
Interesting choice, Troy, starting off the song by speaking in tongues.
Unfortunately, Zac's physical mannerisms are way worse than his singing. When he opens his mouth, it's bizarre. He suddenly turns into a Muppet. It's like he's Grover, with his mouth stretching all the way from one ear to the other.
You might wonder why I'm not talking about the song itself. That's because it's barely worth getting into. It's just your standard clichéd generic inspirational "believe in yourself" type of song. I was sad, I was living in a bad place, then something happened and/or I met somebody, now I realized I can achieve my dreams, blah blah blah, every song ever sung by a newly crowned American Idol.
Troy finishes up the first verse, and decides he's humiliated himself enough for one evening, and starts to walk off stage. But he's stopped in midstride by Gabriella's voice, as she starts singing her part of the duet. And of course, she too sings it right on key. This "karaoke singing" is so obviously a studio recording, it's not even funny. I mean, couldn't the filmmakers have had their supposedly untested, unrehearsed singers stumble a little bit?
Gabriella sings about how something in her life changed, she never felt this way before, etc. Troy joins her for the chorus, and it's here we learn that "this could be the start of something new, it feels so right to be here with you." And those are all the lyrics I'll be quoting from this song. Sorry, I have to draw the line somewhere. There are far more interesting things I could be writing about. Like fungus. Hey, how about that crazy fungus, huh?
Honestly, anybody could write these lyrics. There's not one interesting, refreshing, or unique sentiment expressed in the whole damn thing. It's the epitome of lifeless pop that stands for nothing, and has nothing to say. And that pretty much sums up the whole soundtrack. So we're in for a great time!
But here's where things get unbelievably wild and crazy: Troy doffs his sport coat, and now he's off book. The karaoke screen with the lyrics is totally forgotten, because now he and Gabriella suddenly know the words by heart.
"Hey Gabriella! I think I love youuuuuu...."
Predictably, everyone in the whole Teen Party stops what they're doing, and gets wrapped up in Troy and Gabriella's bland emoting. The two of them do the worst kind of showy, fake singing, with all sorts of overdramatic hand motions and so forth.
One girl in the crowd gets a little too caught up in the moment, and starts clapping her hands up over her head. Come on, who does that? To karaoke? To bland, schmaltzy ballad karaoke? Come on, High Clapper Girl. You should be ashamed of yourself. I mean, it's a teen party, for god's sake—you can't even excuse it by saying you were drunk.
It's like she's the hot version of Bob Dole.
Then there's a weird part where Gabriella backs away from Troy (in terror, I'd imagine), and almost falls off the stage. But then someone in the crowd puts their hands out just in time, and helps her back on stage. I don't know what the point of that was. Maybe even the director realized how boring this scene was, and was desperately trying to liven things up. But if he really wanted to generate some excitement, he should have had her do a little crowd surfing. Or maybe he could have featured Akon in a cameo, and he could have picked up Gabriella and thrown her into the crowd.
"Has anyone ever told you you're kind of a close singer?"
The song winds up with the two of them gazing longingly into each others' eyes. Wow, I wonder, could this be the start of something new? And could it feel so right for them to be here with each other? And can we get a song to answer that question musically? Oh. Never mind.
And now Troy and Gabriella are out on the patio, enjoying hot chocolate together, and getting acquainted. In their conversation, it comes out that neither of them have any real singing experience, and Gabriella even fainted once when trying to sing in front of people. Yep, which was so obvious by the way they easily started singing right on pitch, without even warming up first. They're naturals, you see.
And then everyone around them starts chanting the countdown to the new year. The two of them just stand there awkwardly as the countdown ends, and fireworks go off over their heads. Well, either it's fireworks, or Park City is being bombed.
"Wow, it is the Rapture!"
Troy and Gabriella continue to look at each other uncomfortably, like maybe they want to kiss, but girls and boys in Disney Channel Original Movies don't do that after knowing each other for five minutes.
Instead, they decide to exchange phone numbers. And they do it in a really obnoxious way. Troy takes a picture of Gabriella with his phone, to save along with her number. And then he takes a picture of himself with her phone, for the same reason. I'll just assume this is how hot, available teenagers exchange phone numbers these days. I am not, nor have I ever been, among that group.
Troy stares at her picture, and starts up another conversation with her, but Classy Gabriella just walks away while he's talking to her. He eventually realizes he's talking to himself, but thankfully for Troy, she at least left a picture to remember her by. "Gabriella," he whispers to no one in particular. Gabriella... I just met a girl named Gabriella!! Ah, sorry, wrong musical. But part of me would really love to see this cast don ruffle skirts and wife beaters and sing about how life is alright if you're all white in America.