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. 

SUMMARY

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.

END SUMMARY

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.

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Like Father (Film): It’ll Give You Emotions and Stuff (Spoiler-Free)

Last week, Netflix released their movie Like Father. Seeing as I love Kristen Bell and Seth Rogen, and Kelsey Grammer stars in three of my favorite TV Show of all time (Frasier, Cheers, and Boss), this was kind of a no-brainer for me.

SYNOPSIS (SPOILER-FREE)

Rachel Hamilton (Bell) is a workaholic who gets left at the altar, leading to her having a minor breakdown. Her estranged father, Harry Hamilton (Grammer), shows up to try and make amends, having witnessed her jilting. The pair get drunk together and wind up on the cruise that was supposed to be Rachel’s honeymoon. They go through hijinks and bonding and emotions and junk and she bangs a guy named Jeff (Rogen).

LikeFather-1Cast.jpg

END SYNOPSIS

So, this is the kind of movie where there are a couple of good scenes, almost like vignettes featuring repeated characters, but the transitions between them aren’t always the best. Part of that is that the characters, aside from Rogen, are just a little bit more exaggerated than you’d really believe. For example, Rachel is left at the altar because her fiancé is sick of her work habits, which are so ludicrous that she is taking business calls while the wedding is going on. Hell, after her meltdown, she pretty much immediately goes back to just being a workaholic. What human is that insane? And, if she is THAT insane, why was he still with her up until this point and acting like he’s surprised? This isn’t new information to him. They try to tie this part of her character in with her abandonment issues by having her father say he was just like that, but… it just doesn’t really fit. We need more than one character trait, movie.

LikeFather-2Phone.png
Yes, Here Comes the Bride is in fact playing right now. And this call is a reminder message.

Harry, similarly, doesn’t ever quite make sense, even after they really try to flesh out his backstory with a bunch of very emotional scenes. He’s basically the epitome of “I loved you too much to ever be with you if it wasn’t completely on my terms,” which is still one of the most ridiculous clichés Hollywood doesn’t seem to want to stop doing. The movie even points out it’s stupid, and the response is basically “emotional hook, then move to another funny scene.”

And the comedy is… Okay, it’s almost clinically inoffensive and bland. It’s not ridiculous enough to ever really elicit big laughs, nor is it edgy enough to ever feel like it’s actually pushing some boundary. It’s like eating unseasoned rice. Yes, it’s food, yes, it gives me the experience of eating, but… couldn’t you give me some f*cking spices? I’ve seen all of you use spices before, dammit, and they were GREAT SPICES!

LikeFather-3Singing
They’re singing in matching outfits. It’s FUN, you guys! Really! Laugh… please!

Overall, it’s not a bad movie. It’s well-acted, it’s got a lot of beautiful shots in it, and the scenes where they want you to have “the feels” will damned well give you the feels. But it just never really nails any other aspect of the film, despite great performances. It doesn’t fail, but it doesn’t succeed either. This is a movie that everyone can like, almost no one will hate, but I don’t think many people will love. If you just want to grab a bottle of wine/vodka/whatever and cry a little bit, this is an okay movie to do it with, but otherwise, try something better on Netflix. Like Hot Fuzz, which is my next review.

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

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.