All of the elements were there to make “The Identical” a toe-tapping, soul-touching salute to the King. But one missed opportunity after another leaves it merely a passable tale that’s a thinly veiled homage to what might have happened if Elvis Presley’s twin — Jesse Garon — had not been stillborn.
The story of twin brothers starts in the deep South when a young couple realize they can’t afford to raise their new twin sons. A chance meeting with Reece Wade (Ray Liotta), a traveling preacher, provides the answers to the couple’s prayers. They will given one of their sons to the preacher and his wife, Louise (Ashley Judd), because they can’t have children.
One twin grows up to be rock star Drexel Hemsley while the other, Ryan Wade, struggles with his desire to play music and the insistence of his father that he become a minister. Both twins are played by Blake Rayne, a Nashville-based studio musician and recording artists who looks and sounds a lot like Elvis.
From the moment the twins are separated, the script by Howard Klausner misses huge opportunities. There are plenty of scenes of Wade’s life as he goes from being a preacher’s kid looking for any outlet for his music to being the greatest Hemsley impersonator on the planet.
Directed by: Dustin Marcellino
Starring: Blake Rayne, Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd and Seth Green
Rated: PG GRADE: C
RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes.
What’s missing is Hemsley’s rise to fame. He was the twin left behind in the world of poverty and minimal life options. All the audience knows is that he’s become the biggest star since Elvis, who is haunted by all kinds of demons. The film would have been more interesting to see how the two grew differently.
Klausner also misses the opportunity to give the film tension created by how much these strangers look and sound alike. The film would have had more drama if at least one person had suggested that they are too identical to not be related.
A deeper examination of how the twins turned out because of the presence of religion in their life also would have made the characters more interesting. Instead, director Dustin Marcellino is limited to a few church services and a couple of father-son talks to get across the Christian message of the movie.
Also, someone in the makeup department missed an opportunity to make Judd’s character come across as being part of this 36-year journey. She looks exactly the same at the end of the film as she does in the beginning. At the same time, Liotta goes from middle-aged to looking older than Yoda.
“The Identical” isn’t all misses. Rayne is likable and has a solid singing voice. The soundtrack sounds enough like the Elvis catalogue to be familiar. The spiritual message is delivered clearly but is not heavy handed.
If only the script had more attention given to details, then “The Identical” wouldn’t have ended up looking like a pale imitation of what could have been a better movie.