What would have happened if Elvis Presleyís stillborn twin brother had lived and was adopted by another family? Thatís the intriguing premise of this earnest, upbeat effort from first-time director Dustin Marcellino. Unfortunately, itís nothing to get all shook up about.
Although no one is actually named Presley in the picture, the characters are unmistakably based on the King of Rock & Roll and his family. Real-life Elvis impersonator Ryan Pelton (billed here as Blake Rayne) even stars in dual roles as a rock sensation eerily similar to Presley and the singing starís twin brother who becomes -- what else? -- an impersonator of his famous sibling (although he doesnít know the hip-swiveling rocker is his twin).
The story begins in 1936 Alabama, where a backwoods woman named Helen Hemsley (Amanda Crew) gives birth to twin boys. Her out-of-work husband (Brian Geraghty) worries they canít afford two extra mouths to feed. As luck or the Lord would have it, he attends a tent revival meeting that night and hears the preacher (Ray Liotta) lament that he and his wife (Ashley Judd) canít have children. The new father then offers to give one of his sons to the childless couple, believing it to be Godís will. They accept and are told by Mr. Hemsley that they mustnít reveal the truth to the boy until after he and his wife are dead. Thus begins what one believes will be parallel stories, ‡ la The Prince and the Pauper, about how each boy is raised and how their lives differ. Sadly, the movie focuses exclusively on Ryan Wade, the preacherís kid. We only learn about Drexel Hemsley after he becomes a star recording artist known as ìthe Dream.î How he got there and what his life was like as a rock & roll pioneer are only hinted at. Perhaps the filmmakers assume we already know Elvisí story, so it doesnít need to be rehashed. But curiously, later in the movie a talent manager mentions Elvis by name. If Elvis exists in this world, then the Dream would be seen as a second-rate version of the superstar. There canít be two Kings of Rock & Roll.
Ryanís father wants him to become a preacher like he is, but all Ryan wants to do is hang out at honky-tonks (and drink Dr. Peppers; no alcohol for him) and listen to modern music. When he hears the Dream on the radio, he is smitten and knows what he wants to do with his life -- make music -- and eventually parlays his spot-on resemblance to the superstar to become ìthe Identical,î a Dream impersonator.
It all sounds fine enough, but everything about the production, from the stilted performances to the static direction to the saccharine script, feels amateurish. And the serviceable Elvis-inspired songs, penned by the directorís father and grandfather, are pale imitations of the real thing. The songwriting duo hit a high note with the ballad, ìYour Loveís Keepiní Me Tonight,î which Ryan sings at a contest for Dream imitators. Itís also the filmís high point. Rayne delivers a soulful performance of the song, and for a few minutes you think youíre watching and listening to Elvis himself.
And speaking of Blake Rayne, he is alternately the best and worst thing about The Identical. He looks like Elvis, sings like Elvis, and possesses a boyish charm that is irresistible. When he performs, which is often, you canít take your eyes off of him. But he is no actor, and crumbles under the weight of having to carry almost every scene. Itís particularly apparent when he goes toe-to-toe with heavyweight Ray Liotta, who delivers the movieís most powerful, nuanced performance.
Viewers who are looking for an inoffensive, family-friendly flick that delivers a positive message (follow your own calling and see what God will do) may find much to like here. More discerning moviegoers, however, are advised to return to sender.
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- Released: 2014
- Rating: PG
- Review: What would have happened if Elvis Presleyís stillborn twin brother had lived and was adopted by another family? Thatís the intriguing premise of this earnest, upbeat effort from first-time director Dustin Marcellino. Unfortunately, itís nothing to get all… (more)