Starring: Seth Rogen, Sarah Snook, Molly Evensen
Director: Brandon Trost
Running Time: 88 mins
An American Pickle is an American film about an immigrant worker at a pickle factory who, after accidentally being preserved for 100 years, wakes up in modern-day New York.
A mad idea executed as chaotically as it is passionately, An American Pickle is admittedly a mixed bag from a cinematic standpoint, though its sheer zaniness and fun factor is more than enough to make you smile. Complete with a personal touch from Seth Rogen, it’s an thoroughly enjoyable watch, but misses out on the opportunity to tell a more worthy story.
In short, how much you enjoy An American Pickle is highly dependent on what you’re expecting from it. If you’re going in just looking for laughs, the film is a fun watch, albeit not quite on the level of some of Rogen’s funniest films. If, however, you notice the personal connection to Rogen’s heritage and the potential for something a little more insightful, then you’re likely to come out disappointed.
On the plus side, the film is at its best when it’s at its most farcical. The screenplay itself is an utter mess, with wild pacing issues and ridiculous ups and downs that move way too quickly to even keep up with. But, the individual jokes are pretty funny, Seth Rogen’s double performance is great, and the film’s light-hearted, zany style is delightful.
There are funnier Seth Rogen movies out there, but An American Pickle is simple enough and silly enough to spark a good chuckle here and there, and keep you smiling throughout, particularly with its wholesome message and personal connection.
But the disappointing part about the movie is that it could have been so much more. An American Pickle starts well as we see life in the ‘old country’, where the characters’ Jewish roots are, and the film does a good job of blending silly humour with a touching perspective on this cultural heritage.
The thread of rediscovering one’s cultural heritage is one that pops up through the remainder of the film, but once we move into the modern day, it really struggles to bring any genuine drama or reflection to the table.
As the story unfolds into a rivalry between the man from 100 years ago and his modern-day great-grandson, it becomes sillier and sillier, leaving little room for more pensive reflection. Alongside its look at cultural heritage, the film also tries to bring in a perspective on the American Dream, as well as the clash of modern and traditional values, but neither of those themes are able to capture the imagination either.
The zany, chaotic nature of the central plot makes it really difficult to pause for a moment and look at those themes, while the screenplay doesn’t do much to bring any particularly groundbreaking or thought-provoking perspectives on those ideas.
In fact, it’s not until the very last moments of the film, where we return to the ‘old country’ but in modern day, that An American Pickle has a moment to stop and think, coming so, so close to a really touching scene about rediscovering your cultural heritage. It doesn’t quite stick the landing, but it’s evidence of just how much this film misses out on.
Overall, An American Pickle is, frustratingly, a bit of a mixed bag. As a pure comedy, it’s light-hearted, silly and funny, and it does enough to make you laugh and smile throughout. However, given the potential of the story it’s telling and the personal connection between its lead star and the core themes, it’s fair to say that An American Pickle really misses the mark, which is why I’m giving it a 7.2.