“The Identical” Sings Its Heart Out for Families… Christian Movie Review
Blake Rayne, the star of the film, looks so much like Elvis Presley that it’s uncanny. Although this movie is about a fictitious singer named Drexel Hemsley — not about Elvis himself — if you’re an Elvis fan you might want to catch The Identical (#TheIdentical) just to see the remarkable resemblance. What’s fascinating is that Blake’s life story as a musician closely mirrors the plot of the movie. In fact, this film is Blake’s first movie; before this he was a web designer and, that’s right, an Elvis impersonator. Yet his acting chops proved worthy of the big screen.
Besides Blake Rayne, this movie has something a bit rare: a high concept story idea with a PG rating. Usually the concept movies steer into R territory, but, as you’ll see in the Parental Guidance section, it’s very family-friendly.
Besides the fascinating Blake Rayne, the film packs some serious Hollywood star power: Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, the awesome Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix, Memento), Seth Green, and Danny Woodburn (whom we interviewed recently). It tells the story of two identical twins separated at birth during the Great Depression — one becomes a superstar singer, the other becomes a preacher’s kid who feels an irresistible pull towards music. It’s one of the best story ideas I’ve seen come out of Hollywood this year.
And though critics on Rotten Tomatoes are hacking this movie to pieces in their reviews, I will swim against the salmon stream and explain why I think families should take a chance on this movie.
Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance…
Sexual Content/Nudity: No nudity or sex scenes. Couples dance at honky tonk and girls ogle the famous rock star and claw at his clothes, but the film stays in its PG domain.
Violence/Gore: A man gets punched in the face and gut. Another character is involved in a plane crash, but no moments from the actual crash or violence is actually shown.
Language: One h-word.
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: One character drinks and smokes a lot. One reference to “hootie weed.”
Frightening/Intense/Emotionally Heavy Content: Certain elements of the story deal with the loss of a child through miscarriage and the medical inability to have children — as well the intense pain of parents having to give up one of their newborn children during the Great Depression because they can’t afford to take care of him. Although it doesn’t dwell on those emotions with gut-wrenching detail like you might see in a darker drama, the topic plays enough of a role that anyone who has suffered from those things recently might find those scenes difficult. One scene involves a frightening plane crash and its tragic aftermath.
(Please support our site and consider buying your movie tickets through our affiliate Fandango!)
Entertainment Value and Film Craft
The script, in my opinion, had some weak moments of dialogue, some awkward story flow at certain parts, and a long exposition. Also, I think the film over-indulged in a few of the emotional scenes. As my wife Amy pointed out once, when movies do that, it feels like the filmmakers don’t trust the audience. It feels like they’re trying really hard to make sure you don’t miss the emotion of a scene. Maybe it’s just my personal taste, but I always like a “less is more” approach during emotionally intense scenes.
Despite these negatives (upon which the critics dog-piled), I saw enough positive things about the movie that I think it’s worth a family outing to the theaters:
1. How often do you get to see Ray Liotta play a pastor who is sold out to Christ? Although they make his pastor-father character oppressively strict in the beginning and an uptight fuddy-duddy, the film doesn’t leave him in that mold nor does it turn him into a villain as so many other movies have done with Christian characters.
2. Despite the problems mentioned above, the script does have some strong moments that genuinely moved the audience and made us laugh.
3. It’s got some great music, especially if you’re a fan of old rock and roll from the ’50s.
4. It has Joe Pantoliano. Enough said.
5. As I said earlier, if you’re an Elvis fan, Blake Rayne’s performance will blow you away. Someone needs to make a serious Elvis biopic while this actor is still young.
6. Seth Green added a relaxed, fun comedic tone to the film.
7. Ashley Judd added her immense likeability to the story.
8. It has Danny Woodburn. Enough said.
9. The story concept about the identical twins is so interesting that no matter what weaknesses came up with the script I was still wholly invested in the movie, wanting to know what would happen to the characters. Isn’t that the goal of every storyteller — to make you want to stick around to see the ending? Despite the film’s problems, I wanted to see how it all turned out, and I liked the final scene. It was satisfying. So the movie succeeded on that important level.
10. It’s a High Concept film (and, yes, I promise I am using that term properly by applying it to this movie), that’s rated PG and family-friendly. In my opinion, that’s rare. If you and your family are looking for an interesting concept film that’s also clean, you might as well take advantage of this opportunity and give The Identical a try.
Worldview and Spiritual Elements
In a nutshell, this line from the movie captures the film’s worldview: “If He [the God of the Bible] is in your dreams, nothing can stand against them.” In other words, if what you’re doing with your life — whether it’s being a preacher or a singer in a band — is what God made you to do and called you to do, then nothing can stop it from happening. You might say that The Identical is a modern rock and roll parable of the incident in Acts where the leaders in Jerusalem see the miracles that Jesus’ disciples are doing, and one of them warns the others in Acts 5:39: “And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”
God’s will often comes in packages we don’t expect. That’s the underlying theme of the film — with a little bit of our culture’s watery “follow your heart” thrown in perhaps, depending on how you interpret certain scenes — but overall the film approaches the debate about destiny, Providence, the will of God, callings, etc. in a creative way.
In addition, because the main characters are Christians — most of them fervent, sincere, kind followers of Christ — the film has Scriptural references and God-focused dialogue all throughout the film. It had more overt Bible content than many of the films that come from Christian studios. And what I appreciated the most was that it depicted Christians in a warm, sympathetic way. It was refreshing.
Although the film’s execution and script has received heavy criticism, there was enough great stuff to win me over. It’s a live action movie for grownups that’s PG (which is rare these days), it’s very family-friendly, it portrays Christians in a positive light, it’s a High Concept film, and it has world-class actors. You’re not going to get that combination very often. And, even though the movie critic elites aren’t giving it any awards, I’d say it’s worth spending a little money to see if your family’s in the mood to go to the theaters this weekend.