I’m hearing that TV spots for The Identical are starting to pop-up around the country, so it seems the cat is almost out of the bag. If you saw one and wondered “what the hell is going on?” you’re not alone. What looks like a Jackie Jormp-Jomp* Elvis movie come to life is actually even stranger than that. It’s also part of Hollywood’s ongoing move to bring Christian-themed projects into the mainstream, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
If lead “Blake Rayne” reminds you of Elvis, there’s a good reason for that. He used to be Ryan Pelton, described as “the world’s number one Elvis impersonator,” who, according to lore, got his start when his mom entered him into an Elvis impersonation contest in 1998. From there he traveled the world, eventually showing up on American Idol in 2007, and playing a circuit of state fairs, as well as “a nightly act at the Myrtle Beach Legends In Concert theatre in South Carolina,” which I bet was an incredible place to meet chicks. Pelton announced early last year that he’d no longer be performing as an Elvis impersonator and would instead by striking out on his own under his new awesome stage name, Blake Rayne, which, he says, being a big Batman fan, reminded him of Bruce Wayne.
So, The Identical is what happens when you try to make an origin story about an Elvis impersonator without being able to use Elvis or any of his songs? With a soundtrack that includes such jams as “Be Boppin’ Baby,” “Boogie Woogie Rock n Roll,” “Nashville Tonight,” and “City Lights?”
Well, sort of. There’s also a Christian angle. The film is about an Elvis-looking dude who gets separated from his identical twin at birth, with one brother raised by an evangelical preacher (played by Ray freakin’ Liotta). The Identical was produced by a little-known independent production company called “City Of Peace,” whose mission is “to provide framework where music, films and video with ‘redeeming value’ can be developed, produced, marketed and distributed worldwide, bringing a message of hope, love and encouragement to this generation.”
Director Dustin Marcellino says “the underlying theme of the film is, if God is in your dreams, then nothing can stand against you.”
Marcellino, making his directorial debut on The Identical, by the way, is the grandson of Jerry Marcellino, a record producer who wrote and produced songs for the Jackson 5, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Frankie Valli, and others; and the son of Yochanan Marcellino, who founded a series of Christian record labels.
Ahh, so it’s a CHRISTIAN unlicensed Elvis movie, you’re probably thinking. Again, partially right, but it’s not that simple either.
Turns out, the Marcellinos are some kind of Jews for Jesus operation, with Yochanan’s label promoting Christian-themed projects alongside Zionism from its headquarters in Israel, where Dustin was partly raised.
The label was involved in a 1998 joint project with Integrity Music, Adonai: The Power of Worship from the Land of Israel, a compilation album featuring multiple artists.
The label signed a long-term distribution deal with Provident Music Distribution in 1999.
Provident Music, incidentally, put out Facing the Giants, a Christian-themed football movie.
So it seems, The Identical is this sort of a dual vanity project from a former Elvis impersonator and a Christian/Zionist record label that hopes to promote him as their next big artist. Ergo, the answer to “what’s the deal with ‘The Identical'” is, imagine The Room if Tommy Wiseau was an evangelical Christian Elvis impersonator making a royalty-free origin story in which he played his own twin.
Oh, except that instead of a cast of complete unknowns, it stars Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Joe Pantoliano, Seth Green, and the hot girl from Silicon Valley. Christian movies are really the only independent movie game in town right now, AND THINGS ARE GETTIN’ REAL WEIRD. More on this as it develops, obviously.
*30 Rock’s famous, fictional Janis Joplin biopic that fails to secure the rights to Janis Joplin’s name or music, and thus has to be called “Jackie Jormp-Jomp.”