“The Identical” ineffectually commingles the popularity of faith-themed films like “Heaven is for Real” and alternate history storylines (e.g., “what would happen if Marty McFly went back further than his parents’ prom and killed Hitler?”) to squander a solid cast and upbeat score.
Here’s what grabbed me: Elvis had a twin brother, Jesse, who died at birth. That’s a fact. Writer Howard Klausner explores what that twin’s life might have been if he lived but was separated at birth and raised by a preacher and his wife (Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd).
The names are changed but there is little other effort. Drexel Hemsley (Blake Rayne) is not the “King,” he’s the “Dream;” he goes on to make goofy beach movies and fans mourning his premature death convene at his home: “Dreamland.” Further, Rayne’s looks, voice, and mannerism are spot-on Elvis.
There are actually only incidental shots of the Elvisesque Drexel (think: “Cloverfield”); instead, the film follows the struggle of twin Ryan (also Rayne) as he searches for his own identity. Liotta envisions him following in his footsteps, that is becoming a man of the cloth, but Ryan’s natural inclination leads to music (a man of a different cloth, this one polyester with a cape and a huge belt-buckle). Worse, it’s “the Devil’s music” (so, yea, a little “Footloose” in there, too).
A promoter helps Ryan capitalize on the similarities to the chart-topper by booking him in venues as “The Identical,” where he perfectly mimics songs to audiences of Drexel fans. Good money but little fulfillment. All of this pains Liotta, but he made a deal with Ryan’s real father that prevents him from revealing why the boy’s passion and skill so parallel Drexel’s.
There were times when I thought this one was very competent and others when I wondered where it was going. Klausner, who co-penned the kinda/sorta final days of Hank Williams in the 2011 film “The Last Ride,” did an admirable job creating the conflicted character who genuinely wrestles with the whole “honor thy father” thing — as does Liotta — especially when it becomes apparent to both that when it comes to music Ryan was “born this way.”
Still, I thought this intriguing plot was muddled with a slathered spiritual message that seemed rudderless and forced.
Seth Green and Joe Pantoliano co-star.
Med City Movie Guy’s rating: 3 Honks
Think of the slim pickings at the Cineplex these last few weeks as a sort of palate cleaner between the Summer Blockbusters and Hollywood’s next big period: awards season. The studios save the best for last. Here’s a look at what’s to come.
The Equalizer. Denzel Washington (I could probably stop right there) re-teams with “Training Day” director Antoine Fuqua to rescue Chloe Grace Moretz from Russian mobsters. Fuqua is hot from “Olympus Has Fallen,” and Denzel brings intensity, credibility and awards spotlight to whatever he does.
St. Vincent. A quirky comedy that stars Bill Murray as a caustic, incorrigible and unlikely mentor to Melissa McCarthy’s son. Reception from early festival screenings suggest Murray may need to make room on one of his shelves.
Nightcrawler. This intense thriller is set against the backdrop of crime journalism and stars genre veteran Jake Gyllenhaal and personal favorite Bill Paxton. Color me intrigued.
Horrible Bosses 2. OK, probably not award-worthy, merely a guilty pleasure. The original 2011 comedy was a break-out favorite. Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis return. Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell and Kevin Spacey were apparently right-sized out.
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. Ben Stiller takes his reanimated artifact trek globe-hopping in this installment. Considering how disappointing 2009’s “Battle of the Smithsonian” was, I don’t have high expectations for the played-out premise. Still, that it is one of comic legend Robin Williams’ last roles may cause us to view it more favorably.