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Movie Review

The Identical

MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material and smoking.

Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens Family
Music Drama
1 hr. 47 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
September 5, 2014 (wide—1,956 theaters)
DVD: January 13, 2015
Copyright, Freestyle Releasing click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Freestyle Releasing Copyright, Freestyle Releasing Copyright, Freestyle Releasing Copyright, Freestyle Releasing Copyright, Freestyle Releasing Copyright, Freestyle Releasing Copyright, Freestyle Releasing Copyright, Freestyle Releasing Copyright, Freestyle Releasing
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Freestyle Releasing

adoption in the Bible

giving up a child to be raised by others


questioning your beliefs about God

How can we know there’s a God? Answer

What if the cosmos is all that there is? Answer

If God made everything, who made God? Answer

What does God say? Answer

following God’s calling for your life

What is your passion in life?

connection often felt by twins

music in the Bible

trying to please your father

Featuring: Ray LiottaReece Wade
Ashley JuddLouise Wade
Amanda CrewHelen Hemsley
Seth Green … Dino
Joe Pantoliano … Avi Hirshberg
Blake Rayne … Ryan Wade / Drexel Hemsley
Erin Cottrell … Jenny O'Brien
Brian Geraghty … William Hemsley
Waylon Payne … Tony Nash
Danny Woodburn … Damon
more »
Director: Dustin Marcellino
Producer: City of Peace Films
Identical Production Company
Distributor: Freestyle Releasing

“If He is in your dreams, nothing can stand against them.”

“The Identical” takes place during the Great Depression in the state of Tennessee. A young couple, William and Helen Hemsley (Amanda Crew) are struggling to make ends meet. Luckily, they have just been blessed with the gift of children, two of them to be precise, identical twin boys. One night, William notices a group of traveling Christians led by the famous Reverend Wade (Ray Liotta). During the event, Reverend Wade tells everyone about a miscarriage that occurred during his wife’s pregnancy.

As William listens, he believes that God wants him to give one of his sons to the good Reverend. After much prayer from William and Helen, they inform the Reverend of their decision, and Reverend and his wife thankfully take one of the sons whom they name Ryan Wade (Blake Rayne).

Years pass. Ryan is fully grown and struggling in forming his own identity (not knowing about his identical twin brother, the famous singer, Drexel Hemsley). His father wants him to go into the ministry, believing it to be God’s calling. Ryan, however, doesn’t hear the call and instead explains that music is what he believes God is calling him to do.

One night during a “Sing like Drexel” competition, Ryan performs and people are sure he is Drexel himself. He wins the competition, uses this to his advantage, and is able to launch his own singing career. And the rest, well the rest of the movie you will have to see for yourself.

There is much to praise in this film. What is so invigorating and different from other films is that God is a central focus surrounding the events involving Ryan Wade’s circumstances. In the film, we watch as Ryan struggles with finding his identity and with the Reverend’s push towards the ministry, and in his struggle you can see him wrestling with God and God’s purpose for him. The film positively promotes Scripture and God in many ways (frequent, appropriate passages of Scripture are used, prayer is positively welcomed and encouraged, themes of praising God in the good and the bad). It is just so refreshing to see Him in the spotlight for a change.

In terms of filmmaking quality, this film is pretty much spot on perfect (including the performances by Ray Liotta as the Reverend and Blake Rayne as Ryan and Drexel). If I had one objection (and it is a minor one, at most), it might have been that the story tended to drag in some areas. But looking back at it, I don’t really feel that was such as a bad thing. The extensive time allowed me to learn about Ryan Wade, understand his character, and his struggle for self-identity. The music, most of it from the 1950s and 1960s, is quite entertaining, and Blake sounds as close to the real Elvis Presley as one could get.

Minor Objectionable Content

Violence: During a party, the county sheriffs come in and break up the party. Ryan and one of the sheriffs get into a confrontation with each other, and the sheriff kicks him in the stomach twice, which knocks him to the ground. One character has a heart attack, but ends up okay.

Profanity: The Lord’s name is taken in vain once (“Oh my L*rd”). There is also one instance of “h*ll”

Sex/Nudity: Some of the dancing is a little questionable during the partying scenes. There are some scenes involving kissing.

Other: There are some scenes where people are seen drinking and smoking cigarettes (Ryan, however, almost never touches alcohol and is seen drinking soda instead).

Spiritual Lessons

“The Identical” is all about the struggle to define who we are and who we are destined to become. Ryan spends most of his life questioning his surroundings (like his father’s influences and desires for his son), his passions, and his purpose. God calls us all to a purpose, each purpose according to his own plans, not ours.

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” –Jeremiah 1:5

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.” -Proverbs 3:5-6

“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” –Psalm 138:8

In my years as a reviewer for Christian Spotlight, I don’t think I have ever done a review where the objectionable content portion of my checklist was almost empty. As I walked out of the theater, the only words that could come out my mouth were, “Wow, just wow! Incredible!” It is my honor and privilege to recommend this movie for Christian viewing. Many critics have spoken ill about this film, stating it’s “too preachy” or “weak.” All I can say is DO NOT BELIEVE THEM. This movie is anything but what critics have stated. Take the kids, family, anyone you can to see this film while its still in theaters. And remember, our identity is given to us through one person and one person only… Jesus Christ.

Violence: Mild to moderate / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Mild

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—A very entertaining, clean movie. Much better than the secular critics claimed it to be. Highly recommended.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Jeremy Klein, age 59 (USA)
Positive—I love “The Identical.” I see it as a delightfully redemptive film. As a pastor’s wife, I have a couple of wonderful PKs. This film beautifully exhibits the struggle between a preacher-father’s dream for his son and a son’s own idea of his calling, and the ultimate reconciliation of their values. Love is greater than all. It has a strong Christian worldview, the son being honorable, refusing alcohol and staying pure til marriage. It portrays the blessing of adoption into a loving family, just as most of us are adopted into God’s family.

In fact, this movie is all about faith, family, forgiveness, and finding ones way in a complex world. Many wonderful Christian values here.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Cheri Ford, age adult (USA)
Positive—I took my 18 year old daughter to this, and we were both entertained. It is definitely a take-off on Elvis Presley, but I was delighted that it was a much, much more balanced view of Christianity than usually portrayed on the big screen. I would have enjoyed time with the brothers together, and a less clichéd storyline. However, it was so refreshing to see the main character refraining from drinking, faithful to his wife, not into drugs, respectful of his parents, etc. He stood up for himself, but honored his father.

It is not anything brilliant or earth shattering, but a clean film with a pastor who is not a Hollywood stereotype of an idiot. We enjoyed it!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Tori, age 58 (USA)
Positive—Delightful to see such a movie that entertained all of our emotions. It is always good to revisit the depression in order to understand what devastation entered our culture during those times. “The Identical,” although not a true story, was quite believable. It resembled such memorable times as Elvis Presley days gone by and was full of delightful music and nostalgia.

From a spiritual side, it was done well and depicted a solid biblical pattern that could be occurring in anyone’s family. Showing a Christian father that wanted his (adopted son) to follow HIS vision rather than his own. A good lesson for us all! The son, respected and adhered to his fathers plan long enough to find it was not resonating in his own spirit. While the son explored the “world of music,” he held fast to not drinking and smoking along with his friends. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Mary Carskadon, age 66 (USA)
Positive—I really enjoyed supporting this interesting movie. I didn’t find any objectionable material in the movie. In my opinion, it was more of a secular movie that borrowed some Christian spiritual themes and applied them in a worldly fashion. The quality of the acting and casting was excellent and believable, and the story was interesting.

However, I expected more of a spiritual crescendo given the early scenes. I was hoping to see the main character have some spiritual, eternal purpose rather than just living his worldly dream. Nonetheless, it was interesting, and I enjoyed going to the show with my wife.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Gary Ford, age 47 (USA)
Neutral—I took my mom to see “The Identical” because she was a huge Elvis fan in her youth. We both walked out of the film sort of confused. It wasn’t supposed to be about Elvis, but it pretty much was his life story, minus the identical twin. The movie did not feel original, at all, and my mom said she thought we were going to see a Christian movie, other than the dad being a preacher, there was pretty much zero Christian theme to the movie. No “I see the light” ending, nothing. I would suggest waiting until the movie comes out on DVD rather than paying to see it in the theater, and I say that with a heavy heart, because I truly wish it was worth supporting.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Mrs. Brown, age 34 (USA)
Movie critics

… the movie is entertaining with good performances and fun music. …has a strong message of Christian faith, forgiveness and following God’s calling …inspiring positive values. …
—Ted Baehr, Movieguide

…What if Elvis’ twin brother had lived? an inspirational message about fatherhood and forgiveness as this wholesome, engaging tale unspools, keeping me wondering right until the end what was going to happen. …
—Adam R. Holz, Plugged In

…“The Identical” is a compelling faith-filled story with genuine emotional impact. …Liotta makes it work… “The Identical” takes a refreshing track of spiritual exploration. …
—Christa Banister, Crosswalk

…unfortunately falls short of fully realizing its provocative high concept…
—Joe Leydon, Variety

…Sober sincerity can’t elevate this imitation of real life above sentimental mediocrity…
—Justin Lowe, the Hollywood Reporter

…Evidently made with deep pockets but muddled intentions, “The Identical” is a folly largely unworthy of its hidden idol.
—William Goss, The Austin Chronicle

…melodramatic and it’s heartfelt religiosity gets overbearing. …
—Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News

…The film’s so preoccupied with being “inspirational” that it disastrously fails to evoke the allure of rock n’ roll, particularly in America in the 1950s, when it represented an erosion of racial and sexual barriers. …
—Chuck Bowen, Slant Magazine

…“The Identical” takes an idea inspired by Elvis Presley and turns it into cliches and sentimentality…
—Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times

…a jukebox musical that takes time revealing its goofy absurdity. …this movie’s earnest infectiousness is tough to deny.
—Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times

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