*1/2 (out of four)
Did you know that Elvis had an identical twin brother named Schmelvis? That he had the same talent as the King and would have been as popular had his career started just a bit sooner?
That’s obviously not true. But it’s essentially the premise of the strange musical drama “The Identical.” Ryan Wade (newbie Blake Rayne, a former Elvis impersonator whose real name is Ryan Pelton) grows up the son of a preacher (Ray Liotta) who very strongly wants his boy to follow in his father’s footsteps. Dad’s firm guidance ignores that shortly after Ryan was born in 1935, his birth parents (Brian Geraghty of “The Hurt Locker,” Amanda Crew) decided they could only afford to raise one of their twins and gave the other to Ryan’s dad and his wife (Ashley Judd). Born Dexter Ryan Hemsley, Ryan’s instincts guide him toward music—the exact type and performance style, he eventually discovers, as national rock 'n’ roll sensation Drexel “The Dream” Hemsley (also played by Rayne), whose name assumably was created in an online Elvis Presley Name Generator.
Maybe this idea could work if the twins had any curiosity about each other. Yet Ryan never sees anything fishy about his likeness and unspoken connection to the star, even when he sees his birth mom in a hospital and she calls him Dexter. The one time Drexel sees Ryan, when the former wears an unintentionally hilarious outfit to judge the latter’s participation in a “Sing Like ‘The Dream’ ” competition, he applauds the impersonation but leaves without any skepticism.
Come on! Anyone who encounters an identical version of themselves would try to find out what’s up with that!
It’s also just plain odd that numerous details in these guys’ lives (Ryan serves in the military; Drexel appears in surfing movies) replicate Elvis’ life, even though the voiceover-heavy “The Identical” briefly acknowledges that Elvis also exists in the movie’s reality. First-time director Dustin Marcellino makes the entire thing feel awkward, with the only successful idea being parents forcing kids into a job that’s not a fit.
Mostly it’s perplexing, with accidentally funny scenes including Ryan’s manager using cash to make it rain on himself and Ryan’s inevitable “I don’t want your life” moment with his dad. (P.S. ’90s one-hit wonder Jimmy Ray would have been good for these roles too.)
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