The Identical

Posted on September 4, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for thematic material and smoking
Profanity: Mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, smoking
Violence/ Scariness: Some scuffles
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: September 5, 2014

Copyright 2014 City of Peace Films
Copyright 2014 City of Peace Films
“The Identical” is an incompetent mishmash of mawkish sentimentality larded with a few pleasant musical numbers and some random asides about Israel.  I’m not making this up.

It is inspired by an intriguing fact.  Elvis Presley was a twin.  His brother was stillborn.  Screenwriter Howard Klausner (“The Grace Card”) changes the names and imagines what would have happened if the twin had lived but been raised in a different family.  The focus of this story is on Ryan Wade (Elvis impersonator Blake Rayne), the boy who was given up, adopted by a kindhearted Baptist preacher and his wife, played by Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd.  We don’t know much about the child who stayed with his biological parents except that he grew up to be a rock and roll superstar known as “The Dream.” Ryan is a good kid who loves music.  After a stint in the army, he tells his father that he won’t be following him into the clergy.  He works as a mechanic until he wins a Dream impersonation competition and gets hired to perform at state fairs and other venues. We get glimpses of The Dream (also played by Rayne), performing, riding in a limo through a cornfield, flying in a private plane, looking haunted, but we never find out anything about what his life was like, or what music means to him.

The dramatic possibilities in this story surely have to be in the nature/nurture saga that explains the enduring popularity of real-life stories of identical twins separated at birth as well as fictional tales from “The Man in the Iron Mask” to “Big Business.” And there is some potential for pointed satire along the lines of “Walk Hard” or a thoughtful exploration of the racial and cultural divides that melded into the early years of rock and roll. But “The Identical” bypasses all of this for a story that is both lightweight and dreary and a hero who is too good to be true, played by performer who is much more comfortable with the musical numbers than he is with the dialog. I do give him credit for holding his own despite a series of some of the most appalling wigs ever put on screen.

Even supremely talented actors like Liotta and Judd can’t make much of this movie’s dialog, which is stilted and pedestrian. Among the missed opportunities here is the chance to see what Liotta could do delivering a stem-winding sermon to his Baptist congregation. He does deliver some nice thoughts about kindness and tolerance. But all we get from his appearances in church is a watered down commentary on the importance of supporting Israel (with candles burning on a menorah behind him!) during the 6-Day War of 1967. While the film is being marketed as faith-based, there is very little content relating to the role of faith in the lives of any of the Christian or Jewish characters. It is awkwardly written and uncertain in tone, failing as commentary and as story.

Parents should know that this film includes drinking, smoking, difficult family issues, sad deaths, and family conflicts.

Family discussion: Should Reece have told Ryan the truth? Why do audiences like tribute groups that imitate star performers?

If you like this, try: “August Rush” and “The Buddy Holly Story”

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Drama Family Issues Movies -- format Musical

An All-ASL Episode of “Separated at Birth”

Posted on March 4, 2013 at 12:58 pm

I am a huge fan of “Separated at Birth” and especially appreciate its respectful portrayal of Deaf culture.  Tonight’s episode, which deals with the pending shut-down of a school for the deaf, is all-ASL (with subtitles).  Not to be missed.  For more information, see this background video.

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