An American Pickle: The Past Is A Little Sour And A Little Sweet – HBO Max Mini-Review

Seth Rogen brings us a strange new take on Rip Van Winkle. 


In 1919, Herschel Greenbaum (Seth Rogen) and his wife, Sarah (Sarah Snook), immigrate to America from Eastern Europe after the Cossacks sacked their village. Herschel gets a job at a pickle factory, but on the day the factory closes, he gets trapped in a vat and is preserved for 100 years until the vat is unsealed. His only relative is his great-grandson Ben (Also Seth Rogen), who is a freelance app developer. Herschel’s values from 1919 quickly start to clash with Ben’s more modern sensibilities. At the same time, Herschel thinks that Ben does not appropriately respect his heritage. It’s like they’re in some kind of uncomfortable situation.

Admit it, you’ve seen the guy on the right before at a coffee shop.


So, this movie does a number of things right. Seth Rogen does a great job playing both the terse and confrontational Herschel and the softer and more sarcastic Ben. Some of their scenes together are genuinely touching and many are also funny, which is more impressive when you realize that the same person is playing both parts. A lot of the humorous scenes in the movie really work well, but only because Rogen is just naturally charming and playing two different sides of himself.

And yes, a lot of the movie involves pickles.

The problem is that, at a lot of points, the style of comedy is inconsistent and, unless you’re really malleable, you’ll probably be thrown off by the changes. For example, there’s a funny scene in which the film avoids explaining HOW Herschel could possibly have survived in the vat by telling the audience that there definitely is an explanation and that it satisfied everyone who asked. It’s a great way to acknowledge that there’s no way to make this film’s premise scientifically viable but moving past it with a fun wink to the audience. However, that’s the only time that kind of joke is made in the film and it kind of sticks out. Most of the movie derives its humor from the “fish out of water” story or the generational divide and how anti-progressives in the modern day actually like Herschel’s horrible opinions, but every so often one of the jokes will come from a completely different angle and rather than adding to the film, kind of pulls you out of it and makes it hard to laugh at the next joke. 

On the other hand, it does make some of the sincere moments more touching.

Overall, though, the negatives in this movie are outweighed by Rogen’s performance and the number of genuinely well-done scenes. I still recommend it.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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