Starring: Blake Rayne, Ashley Judd, Ray Liotta
Directed by: Dustin Marcellino (debut)
Written by: Howard Klausner (“Space Cowboys”)
Chalk up “The Identical,” the new unintentionally-hilarious-bizarro-world-Elvis-Presley-wannabe-fake-rock-‘n’-roll-era-church-sermon, as one of the worst musicals ever made. This is not hyperbole. We’ve hit the motherload.
Move over “From Justin to Kelly,” “Glitter” and “Spice World.” In the last 30 years, nothing will make audiences wish a hip-gyrating, sequin-flashing Sylvester Stallone would make a stage appearance singing country music like he did in the horrendous 1984 comedy “Rhinestone” to save us from the styling of newcomer Blake Rayne and whatever the hell first-time feature director Dustin Marcellino and screenwriter Howard Klausner (“Space Cowboys”) have sloppily thrown onto the screen and actually considered watchable.
Playing out like a dramatic version of the 2007 musical parody “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” (just think about that: it’s a drama that feels like an inadvertent comedy reminiscent of a comedy that satirizes a drama), “The Identical” takes the little known fact that Elvis Presley was born an identical twin in 1935 (his older brother was stillborn), and turns the story on its head to create this awkwardly meta narrative that offers up a laughable “what if” scenario of pathetic proportions. Suppose this: Instead of dying at birth, what if Elvis’ brother was adopted to a God-fearing family (Ashley Judd and Ray Liotta) and, instead of following in his father’s footsteps to become a preacher, grows up with a passion for music and unknowingly idolizing his twin brother who goes onto become a superstar rock ‘n’ roll icon? Make sense? It doesn’t have to.
See, this isn’t an Elvis Presley story. It just so happens to be about a couple of Alabama boys, who grow up and look like dead ringers for Elvis and also happen to sing. One of the problems with the believability of the story, however, is that these circumstances aren’t taking place in an Elvis-free world. Are we to believe that the main fictional character Ryan Wade (Rayne), a popular singer in the 50s who moves and shakes and croons like Elvis, would be taken seriously in the music industry when the real Elvis Presley was already doing the same exact thing? “There’s only one Elvis,” a producer tells the faux-Elvis at one point in the film. It’s an obvious lie Klausner hoped audiences would overlook since, well, there’s also this other guy going around the country acting like Elvis, too! Is anyone even paying attention to what’s going on here? This quickly turns into ignorant self-parody.
Let’s regress. The careless storytelling, which includes terrible narration throughout the overlong film, is only a fraction of what turns out to be a painful cinematic experience. Aside from Rayne’s gooberish performance (he plays both brothers and does so without giving an ounce of personality to either one of them), every song he belts out is a slap to the face of music lovers everywhere. From “Boogie Woogie Rock N Roll” to “Bee Boppin Baby” to the migraine-inducing “City Lights,” the soundtrack to “The Identical” sounds like it was produced by someone who did research on 50s rock ‘n’ roll by reading a 30-year-old encyclopedia Britannica…once…while dozing off. If the studio hopes they’ll be able to recoup some of the money they’ve wasted on this production by peddling a collection of hokey tunes destined to do worse than a Kevin Federline Christmas album, they better have a solid back up plan. Our advice: a Ryan Wade World Tour. First stop: the Sahara.