An American Pickle: Film Review

An American Pickle

Why have one Seth Rogen when you can have two?! That’s what the makers of An American Pickle were clearly thinking when they cast him as a century-old Jewish immigrant AND his American great-grandson in this new comedy.

The movie begins with Herschel Greenbaum (Rogen) and his wife Sarah (Sarah Snook) emigrating to America in the hope of starting a better life. He gets a job at a pickling factory and falls into a vat of brine that is accidentally covered over, trapping him inside, just as the factory is condemned and abandoned. Cut to 100 years later, when the vat is finally opened, and out pops Herschel – who has been perfectly preserved and looks exactly the same.

The only family he has left is his great-grandson Ben (also Rogen), an app developer in Brooklyn, who helps him get accustomed to modern life. However, their relationship soon sours when Herschel inadvertently ruins Ben’s chances of selling his app and riles him up even more by launching a successful streetside pickle business.

There wasn’t really any need for Rogen to both play characters – after all, Ben and Herschel didn’t have to be identical – but it makes it a lot more fun knowing Rogen is playing against himself. It is so seamlessly done that you actually forget that fact after a while, because the actor (as Ben) looks very different without a beard, the main way to tell them apart. Ben doesn’t have an awful lot to do except be annoyed and put out by Herschel, the role in which Rogen excels. He steals the show with his Borat-like generic Eastern European accent, outdated, controversial views, and penchant for violence.

I really liked the first half, how the story was set up and the initial generational clash and fish-out-of-water moments, but the overall storyline was lacking. I felt like the “waking up 100 years later” concept was rich with comedic potential yet the film wasn’t particularly funny. Sure, some lines of dialogue and certain satirical moments made me smile, but the plot didn’t capture my attention much at all. I just felt like there must have been a stronger direction to take Herschel and his story. I enjoyed it enough, but I didn’t care for it. You also have to suspend your belief a lot, because there are certain modern things Herschel shouldn’t know how to do yet somehow does.

However, there were many satirical elements that I liked a lot. For example, I loved how modern-day New Yorkers went nuts over Herschel’s pickles, which he sells from a cart on the street, because they believed they were natural, organic, and artisanal when actually they were just plucked from the trash. It’s ridiculous and so goddamn true – millennials love some authentic homegrown produce! I also enjoyed what the movie had to say about radical thinkers – how fans will embrace them up until a certain line – and cancel culture (when a famous person is cancelled over a controversial tweet).

An American Pickle has some great moments, but it’s nowhere as funny as it should have been and the story could have been much more interesting and satisfying.

In selected cinemas from Friday 7th August 

Rating: 3/5

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