Thursday, September 4, 2014

It's Elvis! Er, not really

The Identical, a major helping of southern-fried corn, arrives so thickly battered with cliches you can hardly chew through it.

In a style that's as awkward as it is "old-fashioned," the movie tells a story about twins separated at birth. One of them is raised as a preacher's son. The other becomes a singing sensation and national heartthrob, who seems to be modeled on Elvis Presley.

Singer Blake Rayne, who plays both the preacher's son and the popular singer, can't do much with either role. He moves like Elvis, but has a thicker, less expressive face than the aforementioned Mr. Presley, who had a stillborn twin brother.

The Identical is the sort of movie that denotes the passage of time by adjusting externals, sometimes to the point of ridiculousness. When we arrive in the '60s, for example, the twins are given silly perms that make them look like shopping-mall Samsons.

The story begins in the 1930s when impoverishment forces a dirt-poor farmer in grimy overalls and his wife to give away one of their newborn twins to a better-heeled childless couple, a preacher and his wife (Ray Liotta and Naomi Judd).

Horribly miscast as a Baptist preacher, Liotta's character wants his grown son Ryan to enroll in a seminary. The young man, on the other hand, hears the call of his own dream, which is to sing and swivel in Elvis-like fashion, just like the brother he doesn't know he has.

Oddly, the non-celebrity brother, who takes up most of the screen time, doesn't seem overly curious about why the famous brother -- named Drexel -- looks exactly like him.

The movie piles improbability upon improbability as the non-famous twin struggles to find himself while the script struggles to locate even a mildly affecting line of dialogue.

The movie manages to become even dopier when Ryan finds work as a Drexel impersonator. He's so good at it, that he leaves girls screaming as if they were looking at the real thing.

Predictably, a frustrated Ryan eventually wants to stop being a facsimile and strike out on his own.

The movie seems to have some sort of half-realized religious agenda, some of it coming from Liotta and Judd's characters. At one point, Liotta's preacher-man takes an evangelical tilt, discoursing on the glories of the state of Israel while reminding his congregants that Jesus, after all, was Jewish.

Given what look like the movie's attempts to inject its brand of Christianity into a supposedly broad-based entertainment, I probably shouldn't have been surprised when Drexel turns up wearing a Miami-beach sized chai -- the Hebrew letter signifying life -- around his neck. We later find out the twins' biological mother was Jewish, which made me wonder whether Drexel had been raised on a diet of matzoh balls and grits.

The only reasons for seeing this film are to get an early start on your year's 10 worst list or if you're looking for the kind of laughs that come from a movie that seems to have no idea how ridiculous it can be.

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