Inspired by the what-if scenarios surrounding Elvis Presley’s stillborn twin brother, the faith-based drama “The Identical” conjures up a story in which the Hemsleys, a strapped family with newborn twins, gives one son to revivalist preacher Reece Wade (Ray Liotta) and his wife (Ashley Judd), who can’t conceive.
Cut to the 1950s, when Reece’s son, Ryan (Blake Rayne), is pressured to follow in his dad’s evangelizing footsteps, but his talent is rock ‘n’ roll, in particular impersonating hip-shaking look-alike superstar Drexel “The Dream” Hemsley (also Rayne).
Director Dustin Marcellino and writer Howard Klausner steer their parallel-fates movie toward every cliché, and the aggressive wholesomeness — including avoidance of anything potentially grim about race relations in the Deep South of the ‘50s and ‘60s — undercuts the emotion behind their tale of following one’s God-given talent.
Effort went into the bucketful of original songs that mirror Elvis’ artistic trajectory, and Rayne — in real life an Elvis impersonator — performs them with slick precision, if not earth-shaking sexuality or character subtext. But “The Identical” is ultimately too schematically sentimental, even with Liotta playing against type, to have much of an impact.
MPAA rating: PG for thematic material and smoking.
Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes.
Playing: In general release.