Cut to "One Week Later" in "Albuquerque, New Mexico". Pan up on "East High School", per the sign out front, while a song plays in the background, informing us that the "Wildcats" are "in the house", and they've "really got it going on", and other factoids of a similar nature. But we'll be hearing this particular song in gruesome clarity later, so I won't bother talking about it for now.
The front lawn is currently filled with students. Given the captions, I'll guess this is everybody's first day back from holiday break. Among the crowd is a guy who's got the whole curly-fro, Justin Guarini look going on, and he's got a basketball and he's doing various moves with it, keeping it away from some blonde girl, and so forth.
A school bus pulls up, and out pops our karaoke buddy Troy. Everyone's thrilled to see him, and the following is revealed in short order: Curly Fro Guy's name is "Chad", and Chad and Troy are both on the basketball team. The team is playing a championship game in a couple of weeks, and Troy is their star player. That last part I'm assuming, because Chad says Troy will be "leading us to infinity and beyond!" Oh, come on, Disney. Blatantly referencing your own movies? I thought you guys were above that. (Okay, maybe not.)
Damn, Troy, I didn't know you were tight with Sideshow Bob!
Chad is played by Corbin Bleu, who hasn't achieved quite the same level of fame as Zac and Vanessa. And yet, he released his own album anyway. And he has another one on the way. Are people with genuine talent so hard to find that Corbin Bleu needs to get his own singing career? I don't even want to imagine what those songs sound like.
By the way, Corbin Bleu should not, under any circumstances, be confused with chicken breasts stuffed with ham and swiss. And boy, I'm sure he's never heard anyone make a joke like that.
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And now the whole basketball team reunites on the front lawn, and they head on into the school together. Random hangers-on follow, chanting "Wildcats!" Hey, the Wildcats, I think I've heard of them. Is it true that they're in the house, and they've really got it going on?
Cut to inside the school, where we meet the obligatory School Bitch. We know she's the School Bitch, because first of all, she's blonde. Second of all, every teen movie is required by law to have a School Bitch. Third, everyone she passes (including the guys on the basketball team) makes a really overdone act of backing away from her, twitching in her presence, and acting like chills are going down their spines. So, School Bitch, or Death Personified. One of the two.
A basketball player quips, "The ice princess has returned from the North Pole!" Thanks for spelling that out for us. You're a real dude, dude.
Then Chad reveals a shining wit of his own:
Chad: You know what? She probably spent the holidays the way she always does!
Some other guy: How's that?
Chad: Shopping for mirrors!
The whole team makes big oh snap! faces like this is the hardest anyone's ever been busted on in the whole history of people getting busted on, but I... don't get it. I really... don't get it. I have nothing more to add here.
As the basketball team passes through the hallways, another girl sticks her nose up at them. She turns to her small group of friends and refers to them as "zoo animals". She just might be an important character later.
Meanwhile in another hallway, we find out, like this is any surprise, that Gabriella has just been transferred to East High. Imagine that! Gabriella starts school today at the very same school as Troy! I know, what are the odds, huh?
I'm being serious, here: What are the odds? The ski lodge in the opening scene was clearly nowhere near Albuquerque, New Mexico. Unless, of course, this movie takes place in 2240, during the height of global cooling. So, how likely is it that two people could meet randomly at a ski lodge, and sing karaoke together randomly, and then end up going to the same high school in a totally different state a week later? You know what? Maybe that emcee really was God!
Gabriella's MILFy mom is also here. They're walking through the halls with, oh, let's say, the principal. Conversation reveals that Gabriella's mom gets transferred around a lot (because in movies, what other reason could there possibly be for a student to change schools?). But Mom's company has promised not to move her again until after Gabriella graduates.
Gabriella is, of course, a bundle of nerves. "I don't want to be the school's freaky genius girl again!" Are you sensing a pattern yet? Likes to read, avoids parties, and at her previous school, she was regarded as a freaky genius. Are you buying Vanessa Hudgens as "the smart chick" yet, or not? You really need to. If you don't buy this, then I'm afraid the whole damn movie makes no sense at all.
Is it wrong that I'm getting kind of turned on right now?
Mom gives her some sage advice. But it's not the advice I would give, which is basically, "Don't worry, Gabriella, I'm sure you can take some solace in being a hot piece of ass." Rather, Mom tells her to "just be Gabriella". Every day, I understand more and more why it's a good thing I don't have daughters.
And so, Gabriella makes a face like she's being led to the gallows, and heads off to her first class.
And that first class just so happens to be drama class. How do I know it's drama class? Let's see, the teacher is sitting in front of a velvet curtain, and on the curtain is a wall-hanging sculpture of those comedy/tragedy masks. So... metal shop, I'm guessing?
Troy's here, Chad's here, and the School Bitch is here. The School Bitch tries to get all chatty in Troy's face, but he's not even looking at her. Instead, Troy is totally dumbstruck, because Gabriella walks in and takes a seat in the back. Yes, not only are they going to the same school, but they've also been assigned the same homeroom.
The teacher, Ms. Darbus, is your stereotypical drama teacher. She's all snooty, and exaggerated, and diva-like, and speaks in a near-British accent. So, she's like a matronly version of Madonna. Except she can act. Darbus calls the class to order, then announces the upcoming auditions for the winter "musicale". Hey, the high school is having a musical. I wonder if that'll be important to... nah, forget it. I'm just talking crazy.
Ms. Darbus is played by Alyson Reed, who up until this movie was best known for her long career in Broadway musicals. Previously she played Sally Bowles in Cabaret and Marilyn Monroe in Marilyn: An American Fable. (Yes, at one point she was skinny and hot. Hey, come on, it happens to the best of us.) She's had some movie roles as well, most notably as Cassie in Richard Attenborough's film adaptation of A Chorus Line.
Our dear friend Chad weighs in with his feelings about the musical. He blows a raspberry, and gives the ol' thumbs down. Great, so I guess we'll be seeing him there!
Ms. Darbus also passes on information about next week's "scholastic decathlon competition", and yes, this too will become very important to the plot. This is some tight writing here in this scene. I'm being totally serious. There's nothing even vaguely alluded to that's not critical to the plot.
And here's where we learn the girl who compared the basketball team to "zoo animals" is named Taylor, and she's the president of the "chem club". Also, she will be our stock overachieving brain-box stereotype for the evening. Taylor is played by Monique Coleman, currently a B-lister at best, so naturally, she was on Dancing With the Stars a couple of seasons back.
Meanwhile, Troy is not believing that the girl in the back of the class is really Gabriella. So he opens up his phone and dials her number. And for some reason, he's stunned to hear her phone going off across the room. Troy's a bit slow, I think. Her picture is right there on his phone. Does he really not recognize her?
"Dude! So that's how a phone works!"
Also, I'm assuming this is the first time he's ever called her. Because I'm pretty sure "I start school in a new city next week" just might have come up in conversation. And back in the ski lodge scene, he even promised he would call her "tomorrow". For shame, Troy. You have karaoke with a girl, and you don't call her back for a week?
When Gabriella's phone goes off, the School Bitch immediately checks her own phone. Another student behind the School Bitch checks his phone, too. And this is the Obligatory Toady Character. You know what I mean, I'm sure. All Official School Bitches must have at least one Toady Character who is at her beck and call, whom she can push around into doing her evil, bitchy bidding.
Ms. Darbus declares that "the cell phone menace" has struck again in her classroom, and takes away everybody's phones. And in the process, she lets us know that the School Bitch is named "Sharpay", not to be confused with the breed of dogs. I'd mock the whole Sharpay/Shar Pei thing, but that's just what they want me to do. I should at least be above making jokes worthy of one of these movies.
And the actress playing Sharpay is Ashley Tisdale, the movie's third newly-minted superstar. But unlike the others, Tisdale was already somewhat known at the time, as a regular on Disney's awful sitcom The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, where she pretty much played the same character. And guess what? Now that this movie's a mega-hit, she has her own album out, too. Cha-ching, indeed.
She also recently got a nose job, which she claimed was to fix a "deviated septum"—just like Ashley Simpson, as a matter of fact. Funny how "deviated septums" (septia?) tend to strike celebrities at a much higher rate than the general population. So way to go, Ashley—you just destroyed the only thing about your face that made you the slightest bit distinctive. It seems starlets these days learned absolutely nothing from Jennifer Grey.
Good lord, look at that enormous honker! Thank god she got it fixed.
And then we learn that Toady Character's name is Ryan. And not to spoil things, but later on it'll be revealed that Ryan and Sharpay are brother and sister. And they're both in the same grade. So... fraternal twins, I guess?
Also, Ryan's quite... fashionable. To put it mildly. He's got on a stylish ribbed white sweater, and a stylish newsboy cap, and other things that no straight high school guy would ever wear. All throughout this movie, and all through the next one, there seems to be the clear insinuation that Ryan is gay. I mean, he wears a different fabulous outfit in every scene.
"Let's see, one missed call... oh, it's from the '60s! It wants my outfit back!"
But this is a Disney Channel Original Movie. There's no chance of anyone defying Leviticus at squeaky-clean East High. Put a gay kid in High School Musical, and the protests against Last Temptation of Christ will look like a church picnic. Well, they did look like a church picnic, actually. Lots of Christians protested the movie, you see. The point is, Ryan is as straight as an arrow.
Ms. Darbus takes away cell phones from Troy, Gabriella, Sharpay, and Ryan, and orders all four of them to detention this afternoon. So Chad stupidly mouths off. He addresses Darbus as "Your Honor", and points out that Troy can't go to detention, because he has basketball practice. Wow, that excuse is sure to work.
Sure enough, Chad gets detention, too. And it's obvious they want us to hate Darbus, because later on she ends up being the movie's big baddie, but so far I'm behind everything she's doing.
Taylor the Chem Club Girl whispers a snarky comment about Chad to one of her friends. Predictably, she gets detention, too. It's a blood bath in here! This seems to be Darbus' way of letting everybody know that the holidays are really, really over.
One dumb kid raises his hand, and asks Darbus how her holidays were. All the other students groan at this, and that's the punch line that wraps up the scene.
And then the bell rings. What was that, a two-minute class? I know it's homeroom, but that still seems ridiculously short. I'm thinking that the person operating the bell must be reading along with the script.