If it was a bit more fun, The Identical could make a nice double feature with 2007's underrated music biopic parody Walk Hard. It's just as absurd, ridiculous, full of baffling and idiotic decisions made by all of the characters, and even though it's not as laugh-a-minute funny as Walk Hard, it does have its share of moments that will bring on the gut laughs. The only difference is that The Identical wasn't supposed to be a comedy.
All of the clichéd music biopic melodrama elements are there, with a helping of some of the most awkward Christian faith-based themes I've ever seen. This maddening clunker contains a hefty dose of cinematic schizophrenia as it tries to figure out if it wants to be a rebellious whitewashed rock n' roll fake biography about a doofus who imitates a made-up Elvis-like idol, or a Christian propaganda piece about honoring thy mother and father while peddling a bizarre Jews for Jesus message wrapped around 1967's Six Day War.
The Identical tells the "inspirational" story of Ryan Wade (Professional Elvis impersonator Blake Rayne, who looks and acts like Robert Mitchum's mentally challenged cousin), a preacher's kid who yearns to follow in the footsteps of Drexel Hemsley (Rayne again), a megastar musician who acts and sings almost exactly like Elvis, in a universe where Elvis apparently already exists.
The big twist is that Ryan is actually Drexel's twin brother, given away to traditionalist reverend Reece (Ray Liotta) and his barren wife Louise (Ashley Judd) by his parents who were struggling during the depression. How do we find out Louise is barren? Reece tells his entire congregation in front of Louise, which is supposed to be an emotional moment for the couple, but feels more like a dick move by Reece if you ask me.
Anyway, Ryan grows up with a yearning to become a musician who for some reason cannot put his lips on alcohol through the entire film, let alone drink any. Does he have a drinking problem similar to Ted Striker from Airplane? In a hilariously offensive sequence, Ryan takes over a black blues band in a bar by bribing the band and taking on the stage, while the voice-over informs us that it might be the moment rock n' roll was created. Yes, apparently it took a white man with a constant deer in headlights look to introduce black people to rock n' roll.
Reece is against Ryan playing the devil's music, yet Ryan insists on following his dreams. This is where the film's cinematic schizophrenia kicks in. This is supposed to be a story about a rocker going against his culture to find his own path, yet it can never be anti-culture or anti-religion the way it organically ought to be, since it's also supposed to be a faith-based project. This awkward relationship that The Identical struggles to balance creates some of the most embarrassingly shoehorned faith-based themes in recent memory.
At the halfway mark, the film screeches to a halt for ten minutes so Reece can give a passionate speech about the Six Day War and how important it is for Christians to love Jews, in the middle of a time in America when everyone was talking about Vietnam mind you, a war that never even gets a mention in The Identical's tunnel vision approach to history. I'm not being a tin foil hat conspiracy theorist when I mention the film's Jews for Jesus connections either. A Jews for Jesus organization owns the production company City of God Films. And if you don't know what Jews for Jesus is, Google it. It's good for a laugh.
According to The Identical's soundtrack information, the film contains 22 original songs, all of which sound like they were written and recorded in under half an hour. Every song distills the genre it's trying to ape down to the most childish and laughably simplistic standards. Almost every single one of Drexel's songs, played first by him, then by his long lost twin/impersonator Ryan in an obvious attempt to torture the audience into submission, reminded me of parody tracks from actual music parodies. For example, a song called Boogie Woogie Rock n' Roll repeats the fact that it's a dance song so many times, that it reminded me of "Did I tell you before that I can dance?" song from CB4.
The Identical's DP Karl Walter Lindenlaub, who incidentally also lensed CB4, tries his darnedest to give his digital cinematography a vintage, old school Hollywood celluloid look. Alas, the whole thing ends up looking like someone merely turned on a filter in iMovie. The black-and-white flashback scenes ("Flashbacks in relation to what?" is a good discussion for another time) taking place during the depression era look distractingly clean and clear, while the rest of the film's gaudy Technicolor palette doesn't help. I guess this is a 1080p transfer that's loyal to the source, so at least The Identical's video presentation has that going for it.
In typical music biopic fashion, the DTS-HD 5.1 track doesn't really come to life and show any surround presence until any of the 22 songs come on. Unfortunately when they do, you'll want to turn the volume down and switch your system back to mono, because of the lazy and ear-grating songwriting mentioned above. The mind-numbingly on-the-nose dialogue is heard clearly. This is a fairly satisfactory audio presentation for the genre the movie claims to represent.
The Making of The Identical: A 20-minute EPK where the director Dustin Marcellino mainly talks about how great it was to score such prestige actors as Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd, while name dropping his famous record producer uncle.
Behind The Scenes: A 17-minute piece where the actors try to find any reason beyond the promise of a paycheck to explain why they were involved with The Identical.
The Music of The Identical: A 5-minute featurette where the executive producer praises the god-awful songs in the film.
Zaxby's Promotional Video: A bizarre Nascar/The Identical cross promotion video. No explanation would do justice to its wonton surrealism, you have to see it to believe it.
Deleted Scenes: A whopping 15-minutes of incredibly dull deleted material. Watch at your own risk.
We also get a Trailer.
The Identical is a baffling experience that can't decide if it wants to be the lamest fake music biopic in history or the most convoluted Jews for Jesus propaganda film ever made. It could have turned into a "so bad it's good" midnight screening favorite if the songs and the Christian messages weren't so bland and dull.