A good idea can make a movie intriguing, but it can’t hold up a whole feature when executed poorly.
Unfortunately, that’s what we have with “An American Pickle.”
Brandon Trost makes his feature directorial debut here in this movie about an immigrant named Herschel (Seth Rogen) who moves to the United States with his wife to start a new life. Herschel gets a job to establish his family in America, but because of an accident, he falls into a pickle brine chamber where he’s preserved for 100 years.
After a century, Herschel is released from the brine storage and is examined by scientists. Soon after, he’s put in contact with his descendant, Ben (also Rogen). While the two are at first excited to learn about each other, the time difference and disagreements over family values causes a rift.
As stated in the lead, the concept of a person waking up in another time isn’t a bad one to make a movie around. But the way it plays out here is not handled well at all. The whole movie feels more like a Saturday Night Live sketch stretched way too far.
This isn’t surprising since the movie’s writer Simon Rich has more experience on SNL than in feature filmmaking.
There is some interest with the first act, as Herschel learns about modern technology, food and behavior. While it’s familiar stuff in these kind of movies, watching a person from a century ago try to relate to the modern world still offers some entertainment and a few chuckles.
The movie’s quality drops off after the first act, though. The whole situation just falls into a typical rat race scenario where one of the characters is trying to upstage the other.
Along with a story that just becomes repetitive, “American Pickle” really stumbles when it comes to being about anything. There are some themes at play here, ranging from white collar Vs. blue collar jobs, to modern political discourse and even a touch of religious upbringings.
However, the film never brings it together coherently to make a strong overall point. Any potential commentary on subjects is explored at a shallow level with no real end goal.
Some of that could probably be forgivable had the movie actually been funny, but so much of its humor is obvious and recycled. The film simply doesn’t offer enough to laugh at from start to finish. Comedy here about things like political debates and millennials loving organic foods really fall flat.
Credit should go toward Rogen, though. He’s playing two roles here and in all fairness, he does passionate work. While the accent he gives Herschel is clearly exaggerated, it’s not pushed to an absurd level, and with both roles he puts in good effort.
Surprisingly, though, “An American Pickle” is really lacking when it comes to a supporting cast. Aside from an intern helping Herschel in the second act, there’s basically no side characters present in the film. As a result, the movie is just placed on the shoulders of Rogen, and unfortunately, the whole concept of a back-and-forth between Herschel and Ben can’t hold up the whole film.
“An American Pickle” begins with some promise but the film as a whole consistently stumbles. There are a few laughs to be had and Rogen deserves some credit, but this one mostly misses the mark. 2 out of 5.