FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: “An American Pickle” stars Seth Rogen (Pineapple Express, The Disaster Artist), Sarah Snook (Predestination, Steve Jobs), Molly Evensen (The Sound of Settling, Recovery [Short]), Eliot Glazer (Broad City [TV series], Missionary Style [TV series]), Kalen Allen, Kevin O’Rourke (The Aviator, The Irishman ), Sean Whalen (The People Under the Stairs, Twister), Geoffrey Cantor (Daredevil [TV series], Hail Caesar!), Carol Leifer (Funny People, Alright Already [TV series]), and Jorma Taccone (Hot Rod, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping). It is directed by Brandon Trost (Future Man [TV series], The Day the Dead Weren’t Dead [Short]) and written by Simon Rich (Miracle Workers [TV series], Inside Out). After falling into a vat of pickles in the early 20th century, Herschel Greenbaum (Rogen) wakes up one hundred years later to find all of his family dead… except his great-grandson Ben (Rogen). Herschel comes to know our world and seeks to clean up his family’s gravesite by selling pickles on the street.
It’s been a long while since I reviewed a new release, and what better one to analyze than HBO Max’s “An American Pickle”? Yes folks, the Seth Rogen flick where our favorite stoner falls into a vat of pickles, only to be kept preserved in the brine for 100 years. Say what? You heard what I said. Honestly, the trailer was very intriguing. The story seemed fresh, the cinematography beautiful, and the acting? Forgettaboutit. At an hour and thirty minutes, “An American Pickle” is as straightforward as any film comes. It’s simple, with a fun gimmick and a few slick jokes thrown in for good measure. One of the interesting things to note is how this is a PG-13 Rogen feature, meaning he’s more restrained and the jokes are less… well, sophomoric? Maybe? Really, this whole film is bonkers, as the story itself hinges on a load of coincidences. So much so that our characters basically win and lose and win again by simple happenstances; complicated story elements are whisked away without explanation (some in very comedic ways, others not so much). It has its charm, with a solid performance turned in by Rogen, who does the good ole actor-plays-two-roles schtick that Hollywood seems to be loving for some reason. I enjoyed his role of Herschel, far more than his turn-in of Ben, but that really came down the the development/personalities of the two characters. Ben was really just an off-Seth Rogen who reacted to all that Herschel was doing, which was needed (of course) since we’ve gotta have a straight man to the fish-out-of-water. Their dynamic worked, and the technology used to put them both in the same frame is astounding. We’ve certainly come far from “Jack and Jill” (has anyone seen that movie?). Being that this is curated by HBO, we of course get a good run at cinematography. The visuals in this are awesome, specifically the opening prologue where Herschel narrates his life leading to him falling into the vat of pickles. They went for a comedy-shot-as-drama approach and I really dug it (way to use that 4:3 and blur effect). If I were to choose my favorite part of the film, it would be the opening. The jokes pop more as it’s laid against a foreign backdrop with great camera work. But that’s just me; I like artsy humor. The rest of the film stacks up alright. As it progresses, the laughs become a bit more distant and the drama behind the story begins to take center stage. It’s easy to see how the movie will play out, as I said before it is simple. However, I wish that the film threw more punches in the long run. The story was a train running out of steam towards the third act, mainly because of Ben’s arc. Him coming to appreciate his family is nice (I liked the heartwarming ending), but the roundabout game of looking to ruin his great-grandfather became a bit tiring. I guess because every time we saw Ben he was at a laptop, or the crutch of Herschel not knowing our world is constantly being leaned on. I give grace to that, because that’s the character, but the plot device of someone coming from the past and experiencing the present has been done time and time again. Thankfully, Herschel isn’t asking about every single little thing that modern life has to offer. All he cares about is selling pickles and cleaning up his family’s gravesite. It’s simplistic and works, but at the end of the day I was just left content. “An American Pickle” is a nice, fun picture with enough to keep you engaged. The idea is unique and the laughs land from time to time (especially since Rogen is restricted to a PG-13 landscape). If you’re looking for something to relax to during this epidemic, this film is a good fit. FINAL SCORE: 76%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: