Take a Drink: every time the name “Drexel Hemsley” is said out loud.
Take a Drink: whenever Ashley Judd cries.
Take a Drink: for every drink that Drexel has.
Take a Drink: for every drink that Ryan refuses.
Take a Drink: for every out of nowhere reference to Judaism.
Take a Drink: every time Ray Liotta’s character ages more (while no one else ever seems to).
Take a Drink: whenever Seth Green says something “funny.”
Chug: through every horrible song.
Do a Shot: at the one Elvis reference that makes this whole movie even more ridiculous.
By: BabyRuth (Five Beers) –
Oh man, this movie.
Okay so, did you know that Elvis Presley had a twin brother that was stillborn? You may have. But did you even wonder what would have happened if Elvis’ twin had lived? What if Elvis’ twin had lived but they were separated at birth and never knew each other? What if the twin could sing and dance just like Elvis and became famous as the best Elvis impersonator ever?
You probably didn’t wonder about these things, but apparently at least one person has because here we are.
There’s just one thing though. This movie isn’t about Elvis Presley. No, this movie is about Drexel Hemsley. You see, not Elvis Presley at all! Even though he looks, sounds, and moves exactly like Elvis and is played by a former Elvis impersonator, he’s just not. Got it?
Confused yet? I figured. Let’s walk through this weird-ass movie. After a brief glimpse of a later-day Elvis—I mean Shemelvis—I mean Drexel in his limo, the film switches to black and white and we meet young, poor couple William and Helen Hemsley (Brian Geraghty and Amanda Crew). It’s the Great Depression and William has trouble finding work. The timing couldn’t be worse as Helen is pregnant. After she gives birth to twins they name Drexel and Dexter, William wonders how he’ll be able to support his family.
“Maybe having children wasn’t the best idea.”
He goes for a drive and happens upon a tent revival, which the narration informs us “was very common in the 30’s,” just in time to hear the preacher (Ray Liotta) deliver an impassioned sermon about how it is better to give than receive. The pastor also reveals to the congregation that his wife (Ashley Judd) recently miscarried again and asks everyone to pray for them (to receive a child—wait, I thought it was better to give than receive).
William interprets this as God’s way of telling him to give one of his babies to the reverend and his wife. Helen, understandably, freaks out at this idea but a moment later she’s handing little Dexter over so yeah, whatever. William makes the couple promise never to tell Dexter about his past until both he and Helen are deceased.
The story then focuses on Dexter, now renamed Ryan Wade (Blake Rayne), and his upbringing. Reverend Wade pushes Ryan to follow in his footsteps, but Ryan never feels that is his calling. He just wants to sing. As a teen he begins sneaking out to go to honky-tonks with his little goofball friend Dino (Seth Green) to listen to a new kind of hip-shaking music the kids are going crazy over. When his father finds out he sends Ryan off to the army and then to Bible college to keep him on his path to the ministry and away from that “devil music.”
At the same time, a young singer named Drexel Hemsley (also Rayne) is becoming a worldwide sensation.
“I knew we picked the wrong one!”
Ryan hears Drexel on the radio and is instantly obsessed, listening to him non-stop and eventually performing his songs for any audience he can find. Everyone around him is flabbergasted by Ryan’s uncanny resemblance to Drexel, but Ryan just sees it as a coincidence. Eventually Ryan quits Bible college to pursue his dream of making it in music. But no one wants to hear Ryan, they only want “The Identical,” Ryan’s stage name as the best Drexel impersonator in the world.
This film is so bizarre and at times so wrong-headed it’s a wonder that it even exists at all. So for that, I raise my glass.
Seriously, not only is it a weird what-if? fan-fiction-esque story of Elvis’ twin brother, it’s also one of those “faith-based” films (it has the same distributor as God’s Not Dead), and a wacky revisionist decades-spanning history lesson that never mentions any major events but devotes an entire scene to the Six-Day War (I have no idea either).
The cast is an odd assortment of well-known actors like Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Joe Pantoliano, and Seth Green alongside the never-heard-ofs.
Everything about it is just strange and it often feels like one of those weird dreams where you fall asleep in front of the television and whatever happens to be on makes its way into your subconscious. In the dream, all the mish-mosh makes sense, but then when you wake up and think about it, nothing about it does. That’s how I felt while leaving the theater.
As you probably have heard by now, this film has been disastrously received, registering a dismal 4% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Many are even comparing it to The Room. While there are definitely more than a few unintentional laughs, I wouldn’t go that far. The direction is competent enough (especially for first-time director Dustin Marcellino), despite a whole lot of cheesy dialogue, the acting isn’t horrible (Rayne does seem out of his league in some scenes with the more seasoned actors, but not embarrassingly so), and everyone seems to mean well. It’s just bland and harmless. And again, freaking weird.
The wigs and costumes are a hoot though.
Why this movie chooses to focus on Ryan and not Drexel is beyond me. We never get to learn anything about Drexel’s rise from poverty to super-stardom to apparent alcoholism. That’s the more interesting story here, but instead we have to watch drippy, boring, good boy Ryan who doesn’t care about money and won’t even take a sip of beer.
“I wasn’t doing anything wrong officer.”
“I know, I want to talk to that other guy.”
Maybe the reason for this is because in order to include any detail about Drexel’s life it would require showing the grittier side of rock and roll. You know the sex, the drugs, and all the glorious, bloated excess. But this is a PG rated, family-friendly, Christian movie so the version of the rock and roll lifestyle we get is everyone on a tour bus fighting over a blanket and drinking Dr. Pepper. Wild times.
I guess this movie qualifies as a musical due to the dozens of songs, however none of them are remotely memorable nor do they ever feel authentic. What I am able to recall is that the songs were generic and bad. The best way I can think of to describe them would be if the music for That Thing You Do (a film that succeeds at what this one attempts to do and fails) was written by the people that did the music for From Justin To Kelly.
God, Kelly’s tie skirt was amazing.
In this alterna-world of The Identical, Drexel Hemsley is a stand-in for Elvis. He looks like him, sings like him, and dances like him, but for whatever reason (most likely legal) he can’t actually be referred to as Elvis. I was okay with this.
That is until about two-thirds of the way through when a character references the actual Elvis Presley. The line is “there’s only one Elvis.” And the context isn’t what you’d think, it’s that like Elvis, there’s only one Drexel. BUT DREXEL IS JUST LIKE ELVIS! WHAT IN THE EVER LOVING FUCK? THE ACTUAL ELVIS EXISTS IN THIS UNIVERSE IN ADDITION TO DREXEL WHO IS BASICALLY ELVIS?
I’m done. I can’t with you anymore, movie.
Narration. Oh how I hate narration. Especially unnecessary narration. Especially unnecessary narration when you don’t even know who the narrator is until halfway through the movie. It’s just lazy screenwriting.
The Identical is a schmaltzy, preachy, strange mess of a movie. It’s not good, yet it’s not bad enough to be considered awesome. It’s just… there, for whatever reason. I’m sure some are genuinely excited to see it (the elderly, church groups, family members of the actors) while some will see it out of curiosity hoping to get a good laugh. I can’t recommend it to either.