Ryan Wade (Blake Rayne, left) is urged by his parents (Ashley Judd and Ray Liotta) to become a preacher, but he’s tempted to follow the rock ’n’ roll path of his twin brother. | FREESTYLE RELEASING
By Bill Stamets/For Sun-Times Media
‘The Identical” evangelizes and entertains with sincere mediocrity. If the style is unremarkably mainstream, the message is theologically murky. Why does God create you to rock, yet call you preach?
Director Dustin Marcellino and writer Howard Klausner, who earlier co-scripted a Hank Williams film, take inspiration from Proverbs 16:9 and Elvis Presley lore.
Impoverished parents (Christian father, Jewish mother) have identical twins and give one of their newborn boys to a Tennessee preacher (Ray Liotta) and his wife (Ashley Judd). Not that a midwife in 1935 backwoods Alabama could tell identical from fraternal twins.
One-time Elvis impersonator Blake Rayne plays the twins as young men: Ryan Wade and Drexel Hemsley, a very Elvis-like rocker who dies wearing a gold-plated seatbelt when his private jet crashes. Neither knows about the other.
Ryan hears God’s call to the pulpit. Far louder is the music beckoning from an African-American roadhouse on the proverbial other side of the tracks. The narrator (Erin Cottrell) hints that’s where her future husband Ryan invents rock ’n’ roll in 1953.
Ryan quits Bible college and hits the road in 1967 as “the Identical,” a look-alike Drexel impersonator. “I’m just trying to get my head wrapped around people paying good money to see someone act like somebody else,” he muses.
Scripture in the script poses a quandary about career choices. “Our job is to be who He made us to be and do what He calls us to do,” instructs Ryan’s father, invoking his heavenly Father.
Like his characters, the director of “The Identical” seeks his own calling. “I prayed from the very beginning. I said, ‘God, you direct this film,’ ” Marcellino reveals in an online promo video.
Director’s Guild of America rules may have disallowed God a credit. Only Marcellino’s earthly father is listed as an executive producer.
Freestyle Releasing presents a film directed by Dustin Marcellino and written by Howard Klausner. Running time: 106 minutes. Rated PG (for thematic material and smoking). Opens Friday at local theaters.