Seth Rogen in ‘An American Pickle’ Movie Review: Pickle Pickle Pickle Pickle Pickle, Yeah!
The first original feature film for HBO Max is An American Pickle. Fortunately this is Seth Rogen’s Nutty Professor, not his Jack and Jill, because he plays a dual role. It’s got plenty of wacky shenanigans, but also an underlying sweetness that values familial bonds. An American Pickle premieres Aug. 6.
Seth Rogen IS ‘An American Pickle’
The story begins in 1920s Brooklyn, a time during which Herschel Grinbaum (Rogen) tries to make it by working in a pickle factory to provide for his family. He falls into a pickle vat on the same day the factory is condemned, so he ends up pickled for 100 years. Flash forward to 2020, when a drone dislodges the pickle vat lid, and awakens him.
An American Pickle breezes over the scientific explanation of Herschel’s awakening, mocking anyone who actually cares about the believable explanation when they buy into An Ameican Pickle. Herschel’s only surviving relative is his grandson Ben (Rogen) who takes him in.
Seth Rogen vs. Seth Rogen
There’s a sweet relationship between Ben and Herschel. Ben delights in showing Herschel some of the modern marvels that would be magical to someone from 1920. Things take a turn when Ben takes Herschel to visit his wife’s grave and he sees the cemetery plot he bought in its heyday has been neglected and overrun. Herschel gets them arrested by starting a fight with some billboard raisers on the property.
The arrest compromises Ben’s business, plus he’s justified to be upset over spending any time in jail. Herschel wants to buy the billboard over the cemetery so he can replace an offensive vodka ad, so he does what he knows best. He makes pickles, only he can’t afford 90 cent cucumbers so he dumpster dives for the ingredients. An American Pickle has the best pickle making montages in cinema history.
Herschel is kind of a Saturday Night Livey character, or at least an SNL movie character like Adam Sandler or Will Ferrell would play. He’s a caricature of old timey anachronism, but he’s endearing. Ben is sort of the modern day everyman who tries to sabotage Herschel out of spite. Herschel keeps overcoming and persevering. It remains a sweet family story. Ben’s retaliations are so childish anyway, they don’t really hurt Herschel, but they allow Herschel to be hilariously inappropriate.
A Jewish comedian’s redemption
An American Pickle actually ends up teaching Ben to value his Jewish roots. Seth Rogen has made fun of being Jewish a lot, which has been great for his comedy, and he continues to in An American Pickle. This may be the first time he outright champions his heritage and the community it engenders.
Herschel is traditionally Jewish, and when he starts asking about shul and Kaddish, Ben has left all that behind, like many modern day Jews. Some of Ben’s antics exploit Herschel’s traditional values, but eventually, Ben experiences situations where the camaraderie of other Jews saves him and he learns to relate better to Herschel via their shared heritage.
An American Pickle is Seth Rogen’s sweetest movie, but no less edgy for it. If you love Superbad and This Is The End, you’ll want to see An American Pickle on HBO Max.