What if Elvis Presley's brother had lived? What if, wracked by desperate poverty, his parents only pretended to bury the stillborn twin and instead allowed a traveling preacher and his loving wife (Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd, in thankless roles) to raise the boy as their own? What if a godawful movie cast a crap Elvis impersonator (Blake Rayne) to stumble through hackneyed rockabilly while characters repeatedly praised his magnetic allure, as if trying to convince an audience otherwise inclined to assume him completely dim? Of all the sins of The Identical, there's something unforgivable about casting an Elvis (or Elvis-alike) who can't dance. By the time we've sat through the opening flash-forward, as a bloated and bedazzled emblem drinks himself through a long mournful limo ride amid the cotton fields while monochromatic ghosts of sharecroppers flicker to life, any hopes of playfulness or invention are dashed. For its daft premise, the fable receives a boilerplate biopic treatment—director Dustin Marcellino was evidently unfamiliar with rock 'n' roll prior to filming—with neither the thrills of fiction nor the depths of textured docudrama. After all, once the momentary frisson of Elvis apocrypha passes, we should not be surprised to learn that superstars have brothers, or that they live relatively humdrum lives, or that some siblings are lured by the iconography of an even higher power. Now, if Jesus Christ had a secret twin raised by a klezmer troupe in Galilee's seamier honky-tonks, that would be a movie.
Critic's Grade: D
SEE IT: The Identical is rated PG. It opens Friday at Eastport, Clackamas, Cornelius, Bridgeport, Division, Movies on TV, Pioneer Place.