'An American Pickle' Review - Seth Rogen Comedy Film Is Fun But Predictable

An American Pickle' Review | Hollywood Reporter

This review will be spoiler-free for a time, and then there will be a spoiler warning toward the end.

An American Pickle is a comedy film that has just been released as an HBO Max original. Written by Simon Rich and based on his short story “Sell Out,” this Brandon Trost-directed film features Seth Rogen in two roles. Reading the premise of the film is enough to entice a viewer to check it out. The film starts in 1919, with Rogen playing an Ashkenazi Jew named Herschel Greenbaum, who, along with his wife Sarah, eventually emigrates from Schlupsk, Eastern Europe to New York City. One day, while on the job, he falls into a vat of pickles and is brined for a century. (Yes, he became a pickle, in a sense, but he does not literally become a pickle like Rick Sanchez. And anyway, Rogen has already played a talking hot dog.)

When Herschel wakes up in modern-day Brooklyn, the science behind his survival, while difficult to believe, is handwaved away in an amusing manner, and I was fine with that. He connects with his only living relative, his great grandson Ben Greenbaum. Also played by Rogen, Ben has spent five years developing an app called Beep Bop, which scans products and tells users how ethical they are. What follows is a tale of a politically incorrect man out of time being at odds with his struggling descendant.

One of my questions going into this film was whether the camera work would be avoiding certain shots, thus making it super obvious that these characters are the same actor. When Herschel and Ben first meet each other, it does feel that way, especially when only one face is unobscured during their hug. As the film progressed, however, I bought into the idea that these are two separate people. Rogen does a great job differentiating the performances.

While I am not knowledgeable enough to say how good Herschel’s accent is, that aspect along with his appearance definitely contribute to making him feel different from Ben. Herschel also has very out of touch attitudes and is oblivious to how some of the things he says would offend people. With Herschel’s actions ironically making it difficult for Ben to get his app off the ground, the film feeds into this internal family feud during which Herschel’s pickling business becomes an internet sensation, and Ben tries to use the internet against him. As such, this feels like a very modern film, especially with the presence of cancel culture.

I believe that this 89-minute film could have been a little bit longer so that some of the changes in the character dynamics would have felt more fleshed out and not so abrupt. I also think that the whole thread of Ben being pretty much alone could have been explored a bit more. It seems like he does not really have any friends, which I find really difficult to believe. I understand that the film is more about his relationship with his great-grandfather, but a bit more explanation as to why he’s so isolated would have been nice. Even though the film was satisfying overall, I found it to be somewhat predictable. In order to elaborate on that and other qualms, I will have to go into spoilers for a bit. If you want, you can scroll past them and go below the final picture for my final thoughts and score.

SPOILERS INCOMING

Seth Rogen protagoniza el tráiler de 'An American Pickle' | Tónica

It felt very predictable that Herschel would attempt to switch places with Ben. I would have been upset if it had just ended with Herschel taking Ben’s place and masquerading as him for the rest of his life. It is even more ridiculous that people are so quick to believe the ruse without question. When Herschel dresses like Ben near the border to Canada, at no point does the Border Patrol stop him for questions. Despite the accent, they just go in the direction that Herschel points to, and they arrest Ben assuming he is Herschel even though he does not have Herschel’s accent. The trial that Ben endures is ridiculous as well, and at no point does anyone think to try some sort of DNA test before deporting him.

If the film had ended there, I would have been upset. Thankfully, the Greenbaums reconnect, come to an understanding, and come up with a plan to fix their mistakes and start a business together. Again, there could have been more time between all of these transitions in their changing relationship, but I am glad that this is the ending that we received.

I also found it odd that one of Herschel’s interns was okay with sending out his tweets. She seems hesitant for one of them, but goes ahead and clicks. One would expect there to be a little discussion between the two over whether or not sending the tweets is a good idea. On the other hand, there is the possibility that she might have felt the need to expose Herschel’s true colors, but that requires some assumption. When the protesters arrive, she joins them, but also mouths “sorry” to Herschel, thus muddying the waters a bit.

END OF SPOILERS

An American Pickle Review - FLAVOURMAG

An American Pickle, while not perfect, is a comfortable comedy to watch. It reflects internet culture pretty accurately, especially when it comes to people willing to oppose and follow an offensive celebrity. There are politically incorrect and offensive comments here and there, but it is clear that these comments are not meant to be encouraged. There is not as much drama as one might expect given the subject of both Greenbaums having lost their relatives, but it does have some decent comedy. It makes leaps in logic, but where the last leap lands is satisfying. If you have HBO Max, this film is worth a watch. Just be sure to have a bucket of pickles rather than a bucket of popcorn nearby, because I was craving pickles while watching this.

Score: 7.75/10

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