The Identical (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ryan Wade has always known the church life because he was raised by a pastor and his wife, whom he believed to be his real parents.  However, as he grew older, he did not feel the call to ministry that his father was impressing upon him.  Instead, he wanted to pursue a musical future.  However, when he got caught by the authorities doing ‘wrong things,’ Ryan’s father sent him to the military to ‘get fixed,’ with the expectation that Ryan would enter seminary afterward.  However, the military did not dampen Ryan’s musical dreams, and once he was out, he encountered a life-changing revelation: he is the twin brother of musical sensation Drexel Hemsley, which raises many questions about Ryan’s true heritage.  Will the answers he wants give him peace or more turmoil?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s clear that The Identical is a well-funded production with a well-allocated budget.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The original soundtrack is creative, even if there is some obvious lip-syncing.  The production’s biggest strengths relate to the great 
attention to historical detail, which is evident in the well-constructed and well-utilized sets, locations, and props that reflect correct time period and culture.  The only drawback to this production is the somewhat choppy editing that is a byproduct of the plot presentation, but on the whole, this is a very good and professional production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though this story concept is a bit off-the-wall as the twin brother characters bear a strangely similar resemblance to Elvis Presley (not really sure why this character concept was chosen), there are some interesting messages to explore in The Identical.  For example, the story provides a realistic portrayal of historical issues of the time period, such as churches suppressing certain types of ideas, hiding issues, and expecting men to be fixed by the military.  However, besides the somewhat out-of-left-field story concept, there is way too much narration and expository dialogue to fill time gaps, which obviously stunts character growth and short-circuits the dialogue potential.  It would have been better to just let the story unfold naturally and to let the characters reach their full potential through meaningful dialogue that builds their personalities and motives.  Besides this obvious misstep, the story is based on too many coincidences and things that happen because the plot demands it.  However, despite these issues and despite the odd premise, there is lots of potential in this story–enough to warrant a remake–and many audiences will still find it to be a fine movie.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The Identical has surprisingly professional casting and acting.  Several cast members, such as Ray Liota, do a great job playing multiple ages.  Some emotions tend to be overdone, however, especially from Erin Cottrell.  However, line delivery is almost always on point, and the costuming is historically accurate and realistic.  This rounds out a slightly above average movie effort.

 

Conclusion

It’s great for Christian films to come up with creative movie concepts that are outside of the norm and to make films that are good because they are good without being Christian-ized.  The idea behind The Identical is one of those you don’t think of every day, so the creatively must be commended.  However, while a lot of the attention this movie received centered around the central concept, there were other pitfalls that kept it from being all that it could be.  Even still, there is plenty of positive here to build on, and there are some great cues for other films to model after.  It will be interesting to see if this creative team does anything else in the future.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Billy: The Early Years (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Billy Graham is one of the most influential evangelists of all time, but he did not begin that way.  He had his own sports dreams and aspirations, but God got his attention and sent him on the path He wanted him to be on.  As Billy pursued education he felt that God wanted him to have, he was influenced greatly by a leading evangelist of the day, Charles Templeton.  Billy also met the girl of his dreams, Ruth, and the two of them began a life together.  But as God gave Billy more influence and opportunity, he and Charles found themselves at odds over a crisis of faith that would influence Billy’s ministry forever.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a semi-professional production, it’s clear that a lot of effort was put into Billy: The Early Years.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine and on standard.  Good attempts are made to make the soundtrack historically authentic.  Though some of the sets are limited, the props also demonstrate historical authenticity and the locations are mostly good.  The biggest drawback to this production is the poor editing job, but this is understandable since so much content is tried to be included.  Overall, this is an acceptable production that shows good effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Even though a small portion of Billy Graham’s life is chosen for this film, it’s still too much to handle as the story is mostly based upon montages and sneak peeks at larger stories that we don’t see enough of.  The plot rushes through time very quickly and jumps from high point to high point.  It’s framed in a very odd way that almost focuses as much on Charles Templeton as on Billy Graham, which is fine, except the movie is framed as a Billy Graham biopic.  Regardless, as time speeds along in this film, there is no time to get to know the characters properly, so we are forced to settle with cheap dialogue and one-dimensional people.  Despite the time jumps, there are still too many meaningless sequences and scenes of unnecessary and unrelated content that has no bearing on anything.  In the end, this is a commendable effort to retell a very important historical story, yet it’s executed very poorly.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Since the characters are given very little development, the cast members are forced to make up for lost time, yet they do so in unprofessional fashions.  In attempts to be ‘interesting’, the cast members come off a very over the top and quirky, as if they are trying way too hard.  Though the costuming is realistic for the historical period, the makeup is way too loud.  In short, this creative team gets an E for Effort, but not much else.

Conclusion

Historical plots are important and are often hard to pull off well.  This story in particular is very important to the history of American Christianity, yet many audiences will be disappointed in the slapped-together nature of this movie that even drew (thankfully) honest criticism from Billy’s son Franklin.  It would have been great to get to know these historical figures are people rather than cardboard cutouts, but this was not the case.  Maybe one day someone will retell this story in a better way.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points