The Reel Review
Seth Rogen stars in HBO Max’s first original feature film about an early 1900s immigrant who falls into a vat of pickle juice just as the factory is shutting down, only to awaken fully preserved 100 years later in modern day New York. As it turns out, his only living relative is his tech entrepreneur/great grandson – also played by Rogen. The film is based on former Saturday Night Live writer Simon Rich’s 2013 short story “Sell Out.”
Goofy premise aside, this spin on Rip Van Winkle blends comedy and drama, with lots of fish out of water comic bits as Herschel navigates such modern technology, social media and political correctness to start up a pickle business. Surprisingly, it is the more serious moments, as the two bond over their both being alone in the world, that are the more impactful moments. Often the comedy, which includes a strange Trumpesque bit when Herschel’s offensive, outdated views get him in trouble on Twitter, seems forced and bland by comparison.
Rogen does a fine job carrying the film with his dual roles, and although it has enough chuckles to keep it entertaining, the story lacks the bite that it potentially could have had, had it really gone for a satirical message instead of playing it so safe. Stay through the credits for a nice chuckle.
• Although set in Brooklyn, An American Pickle was filmed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in late 2018.
• 2020 Emmy nominee Sarah Snook (Succession) says she worked with a coach who adapted Fiddler on the Roof into Yiddish to learn her lines in the language.
• Rogen says the trickiest part of playing dual roles were the seemingly simple scenes like making seltzer water, which required his Ben character to improvise to the scenes he’d already filmed as Herschel.