The Muppets gave us Kermit’s evil twin. Jake Gyllenhaal was haunted by his look-alike in “Enemy.” Jesse Eisenberg faced his mirror image in “The Double.”
The year of the doppelgänger continues with “The Identical,” which suggests what might have happened if Elvis Presley and his identical twin brother had been separated at birth during the Depression. (Presley did have a twin, Jesse, though he was stillborn.)
This highly hypothetical and discouragingly maudlin musical drama proposes that the twins’ parents (Brian Geraghty, Amanda Crew) were so poor they couldn’t afford to raise two babies at the same time.
So a childless local tent revivalist (Ray Liotta) takes one of them off their hands, not guessing that the twins will grow up to become rock musicians in the 1950s. God works in mysterious ways, or so the filmmakers seem to be saying — especially where free will and spiritual callings are concerned.
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Presley look-alike Blake Rayne energetically plays the adult versions of the twins, though he never seems to be having as much fun as Hayley Mills and Lindsay Lohan did in Disney’s similarly plotted “The Parent Trap.” The twins are too much alike here; they need to be conspicuously different in order to hold our interest and push the narrative along.
The producers were heavily involved in the blaring soundtrack, which relies on imitation Presley songs that start out sounding like “All Shook Up” and end up more like white noise. The storyline spans decades, but most opportunities to comment on changing musical tastes are ignored.
As a biopic, “The Jersey Boys” may suffer from a narrower range, but it has an engaging vitality that’s missing from this film. “The Identical” merely pretends to celebrate differences. It’s not very good, but it’s certainly a curiosity.
John Hartl: firstname.lastname@example.org