A evangelical film by way of the King, “The Identical” steals the story of Elvis Presley, who had a twin brother that was stillborn. What if his brother had lived? And what if his parents, too poor to care for twins, shuttled one of them off to an evangelist and his wife?
Set back in the old black-and-white days — and to make it clear, the beginning parts are in black and white, before taking the plunge into color — a poor couple is taken with a traveling evangelist (Liotta), who reveals that he and his wife (Ashley Judd) are unable to have children.
Having just given birth to twins, which they fear they’re not able to take care of, they decide to leave one of the kids with the evangelist.
The twin Ryan Wade (played by Blake Rayne, a real-life Elvis impersonator), who grew up with his evangelical parents, struggles as the son of a preacher man. He’s clearly got a gift for singing and music, but his adopted father wants him to follow in his footsteps. Meanwhile, the other twin, Drexel Hemsley (also Rayne), takes the path to rock stardom in the Elvis trajectory.
People begin to notice that Ryan looks a lot like the rock star, and can sing just like him, too. Soon he embarks on a career as an Drexel Hemsley impersonator, going against his father’s wishes. This is a music movie, and you do get a bunch of Elvis-inspired songs. They’re fine, but are certainly not up to the standards of the King.
Faring for worse is the lazy period dialogue, which sounds like it was lifted from “Happy Days” (“Ryan, my main man, ports and pans. What’s shakin’ bacon?” asks Seth Green’s throwaway character). You’ll sit in this film in constant cringe.
You’ll also get a healthy dose of preaching — a lot of it pro-Israel. This is certainly and clearly a film with an agenda, and you should know that going in.
Or better yet, just don’t go in at all.
Directed by Dustin Marcellino
Starring Blake Rayne, Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Joe Pantoliano, Seth Green
Playing at AMC Empire, AMC Loews Lincoln Square