There was a major release last weekend.
I say that with sarcasm because, judging by the box office returns and the film failing to break the top 10, no one realized “The Identical” opened.
Or maybe everyone knew ahead of time how dull this film really is. A weird mash-up of rock ’n’ roll film and faith picture, “The Identical” is too goofy to take seriously and too heavy-handed to dismiss as a so-bad-it-is-good guilty pleasure.
“The Identical” tells the story of identical twins (Blake Rayne) separated at birth during the Depression era.
Ryan struggles to find his way after being raised by a Tennessee preacher named Reece (Ray Liotta) and his wife (Ashley Judd).
He wants to get into music, but Reece wants him to follow in the ministry.
Meanwhile, the other brother, Drexel, is following his musical talents, rising to become one of the most influential voices in rock ’n’ roll.
The brothers eventually cross paths, with neither aware that their love for music has a blood bond.
“The Identical” is essentially a re-imagining of the career of Elvis Presley, whose twin brother was stillborn, and tweaking that fact to create this wacko parallel universe.
Viewers will see similarities to Presley’s life here, including Rayne’s striking resemblance.
The problem is “The Identical” serves as a reminder of how dynamic Elvis was, especially when compared to the rip-off music used in the film. I assume the movie’s budget didn’t allow for the purchase of actual Elvis music.
Rayne, a Nashville native who has made a living as an Elvis impersonator, may have the look, but he lacks the acting chops. He is really out of his element during many of the film’s key moments.
Liotta and Judd are among the familiar faces in the supporting cast that are OK but are bogged down in a script that lays on the melodrama quite heavy. The one bright spot is Erin Cottrell as Ryan’s wife. Her character feels the most authentic of anyone in the film and not just some caricature needed to advance the dull plot, which at times feels more like a Sunday sermon than a story.
When Cottrell is on screen, “The Identical” has at least a little life. When she isn’t, the film is as DOA as the opening weekend box office returns.
DVD dandy of the week
A melodrama that works much better is the summer hit “The Fault in Our Stars” (A-).
In lesser hands, this could have failed miserably.
Fortunately, the talented cast and crew enhance what is already some pretty good material, making “Fault” a teenage tearjerker that doesn’t fall into a typical Hollywood weeper formula.
It is a smart and thoughtful piece of work.
Shailene Woodley stars as Hazel, a teenager with cancer who understands her time on Earth is very short.
Hazel meets Gus (Ansel Elgort) at a support group, and the two begin a relationship that doesn’t just feature the ups and downs of romance, but the burden of Hazel’s health, which means it could all end at a moment’s notice.
At first Hazel tries to keep the relationship on a “just friends” level, but as the two discover more and more common bonds, the friendship blossoms into something deeper.
“The Fault in Our Stars” is based on a novel by John Green. It’s a story that easily could have played as a melodramatic downer, but proves to have a sense of humor. It is more about celebrating life than succumbing to death.
It’s not easy to mix laughs with tears without feeling manipulative, but “Fault in Our Stars” does it pretty well.
Woodley continues to build a résumé that showcases her talents as an actress. Having already had memorable turns in “The Descendants” and “The Spectacular Now,” this is right up there with those two films.
She is very natural and believable as Hazel, as is Elgort as Gus. They have a nice on-screen chemistry, creating a relationship that feels authentic – it’s as if the camera is allowing you to peer into these characters’ lives.
There is good supporting work too, with Laura Dern playing Hazel’s mom and Willem Dafoe in an unexpected role as a writer who has had a major influence on Hazel’s life.
The final act of “The Fault in Our Stars” does feel like it could have been trimmed by a scene or two, but it’s a small complaint for a movie that completely surprised me.
It’s a sweet film with its heart firmly in the right place.
“The Fault In Our Stars” is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language and will be available on DVD on Tuesday.
Starring: Blake Rayne, Ray Liotta
Directed by: Howard Klausner
Rating: PG for thematic material and smoking
Playing at: Regal Greenwood Mall Stadium 10, Highland Cinemas (Glasgow)