Dave's Rating:


Triple Trouble

There is mediocrity in Hollywood. Everyone can see that. The studios churn out dull, forgettable products every single week. And if you limit your film-watching experience to that well-marketed supply cycle, you’ll miss out, not only on the beauty of the occasionally obscure, art-minded, independent film, but also on the weirdness of the transcendently awful movie making its bid for a spot in the mainstream. The Identical is the latter, a faith-based, musical drama in wide release, featuring a handful of people you know, and one former Elvis impersonator you’ve never heard of. It might just give you an aneurysm.

The plot involves identical twin brothers, born in the South during the Great Depression. One lives, off camera, with his birth parents (Brian Geraghty, Amanda Crew). He becomes an Elvis Presley-like singing sensation named Drexel ‘The Dream’ Hemsley (newcomer Blake Rayne, the aforementioned Elvis-ish entertainer). The other, Ryan Wade, also played by Rayne, becomes a mechanic and then professional Hemsley impersonator. Though billed as "The Identical," he somehow never quite figures out that he's the identical twin of a now-famous person. His adoptive parents keep quiet, which takes very little effort. This is a guy who's easily fooled.

Compounding the confusion, both of these men are near-misses for the actual Elvis Presley – who, keep this straight if you can, also exists in this story’s universe even as his own cultural influence is dwarfed by the overpowering importance of “Drexel Hemsley,” right down to the Blue Hawaii-esque film career – and the film pretends this scenario is working out well for everyone. Best of all? The movies’s narration credits not Elvis Presley, not Drexel Hemsley, but, yes, Ryan Wade as the man who invented rock and roll (with a song called “Boogie Woogie Rock and Roll” that will add gasoline to your nightmares for nights to come). This is merely the premise. It gets weirder from there.

The truly memorable bad film, the kind you return to and urge like-minded friends to witness just so you can watch their jaws drop, is one in which each set-up of the camera, each line of dialogue, contains a fresh opportunity for the filmmakers to make the wildest of wrong choices. This will be the legacy of The Identical. First time director Dustin Marcellino, working from a script by Howard Klausner (Space Cowboys), and aided by a host of other Marcellino family members, crams in bizarre, revisionist fantasies about Southern race relations, musical numbers aurally resembling cruise ship tributes to Happy Days, incredible wig mistakes, a brief nod to the physical manifestations of the alleged psychic relationships between twins, an inexplicable fetish for Israel’s Six Day War (with no concurrent mentions of Vietnam or the Civil Rights Movement), and no narrative through-line other than, “Isn’t it wild that this guy can’t figure out that he’s a twin?”

Forced to play two people before he’s had experience playing just one, Blake Rayne – hired for the job, then given acting lessons – can walk and recite dialogue at the same time, which puts him on equal footing with Christina Aguilera in Burlesque. But aside from being game (and a genetic predisposition toward Uncanny Valley Elvis) he’s the doomed figure in the center of a maelstrom of crazy. Discard the Presley stuff and this could have been a film about identical twin cats, both played by Lil Bub.

It’s a Christian movie that ignores that fact for most of its running time, one that will make you feel sorry for all religions and their thoughtful practice. It’s a period drama that forgets everything about its period except the cars and the clothes. It’s a musical with songs beamed in from a satellite transmitting broken, mangled, half-heard snippets of “Be-Bob-A-Lula” and toothpaste jingles. It’s a chance for Ashley Judd to take the Never Stop Crying Challenge and Ray Liotta (an executive producer) to try on a variety of Southern hick dialects to see which one he likes best. It’s a mysterious, hilarious mess, a confusional cry for directions in a Triple Elvis Universe. Buy your ticket now, before it magically disappears from theaters, and feel the brain-breaking power of song. You won’t know what hit you.


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