The Identical

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The premise of this film is actually fun fiction. Most people don’t know Elvis had an identical twin that was stillborn. I’ve always thought that had he lived, Elvis wouldn’t have been the King of Rock ‘n Roll. Perhaps they would’ve been a duo like The Everly Brothers.

This script went with a story about the brothers being separated, since it’s the depression and the family can’t afford to raise both children. When he meets a traveling preacher (Ray Liotta, also the producer), he listens to a sermon about how his wife (Ashley Judd) can’t conceive. That means this family offers them one of their babies, in a scene that’s rather powerful.

The movie makes a few mistakes early on. One of them was not explaining that this was supposed to be an Elvis story. That means when we finally see this baby grown up, we all think – wow, he looks and sounds like Elvis. You hear things later about them living in “Dreamland” (Graceland), and it feels like you’re watching a parody of some kind.

The other mistake they make is not showing both brothers and how they’re growing up. We see the baby that’s given away, and the wonderful life he has with his religious parents. We don’t get to see the brother that becomes a big rock star. That means we don’t know about his demons, and we don’t get to debate the whole nature versus nurture thing.

The brothers are both played by Ryan Pelton, who is a musician and once an Elvis impersonator. He sounds and looks more like him than just about anyone.

Liotta is a rather strict father, but it seems appropriate for that time period. When their boy comes home smelling like cigarette smoke, it’s no consolation that he didn’t drink alcohol or puff on any “marijuana cigarettes.” He’s not thrilled with him going to a honky-tonk and listening to rock music.

I think it’s interesting when preachers in movies can be likable. My favorite is probably Tom Skerritt in A River Runs Through It. Yet Liotta plays this a bit one-note. He’s always either lecturing to his congregation or his kid.

A rebellious and rascally friend (Seth Green) is a drummer and can “borrow” his fathers car. This keeps them going to the wrong side of the tracks.

We can see that he probably won’t follow his dads footsteps into the ministry, and we’re waiting to see what kind of career in music he’ll have.

When his brother releases a single, that sounds like an Elvis/Jerry Lee Lewis mash-up, it’s rather catchy. That’s when people start telling him he looks just like Drexel Hemsley (not to be confused with Sherman Hemsley).

This is another problem with the movie. We’re waiting for somebody to insist that they’re related, instead of just casually pointing out how much you can look and sound like somebody else; especially his new boss, played by Joe Pantoliano (who was Ritchie Valens manager in La Bamba).

When Wade does make it in music, it’s a bit odd that he does it by becoming an Elvis…errr…Drexel impersonator. That comes to a head when he tells his agent he wants to write original songs. That scene, along with the one where the agent is throwing money into the air, are horribly written.

First time director Dustin Marcellino, like a lot of directors, started with music videos. That makes the concert footage a lot of fun. And although the songs were sometimes generic sounding pop tunes, they had a familiar feel and had you tappin’ your toes along with them.

For a religious, family-friendly film, they didn’t get so heavy handed with the religious themes (there were a few pro-Israel/Jewish moments I wasn’t sure about the motivation behind).

I also thought it was odd when they showed a police car. The redneck cops have just roughed up some dancers at a roadhouse, and as I’m wondering about the “Car 54” on the side, my date said, “The license plate says BR549. That’s the phone number they used in Hee Haw.”

So of course, I had to Google to see if she was right. She was, and it turns out it’s now the name of a Nashville band and the sheriff is in the band. Nothing wrong with little shout-outs like that, but it’s distracting when you’re watching a movie and have to start wondering if it’s satire.

The make-up department could’ve made Ashley Judd look like she aged in that 30 year span and not made Ray Liotta look so old; and Drexel not so much like Jim Morrison right before the bathtub in Paris.

All that said, it’s not a bad time at the movies, but I can only give it 2 stars out of 5.

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