Director: Brandon Tost
Writer: Simon Rich
Starring: Seth Rogen, Sarah Snook, Molly Evensen
Genre: Comedy / Drama
An immigrant worker (Rogen) falls into a vat of pickles and is brined for 100 years. The brine has preserved him perfectly, and now with the help of his only living relative (also Rogen) he must somehow adopt to life in 21st century Brooklyn.
It is fair to say that even Seth Rogen himself will admit that he is not the most diverse of actors (he even admits as much in the self-indulgent but incredibly enjoyable This is the End), and so to many the main concept of a film being that it features two Seth Rogens (one of which is a Jewish man with a generic Eastern European accent) is not the most appealing. Admittedly this may well be one of Seth Rogen’s best performances: his modern day character has a much more serious tone, and his attempts at a ‘generic Eastern European’ accent for the other character are surprisingly admirable – it is just a shame the actual story and script are extremely mediocre.
The main plot itself uses all of the generic conventions and contrivances that can be found in most fish out of water / doubleganger comedies combined with the shamelessly stereotypical views of life in Eastern Europe and plenty of Jewish jokes. This then allows Simon Rich’s script to make some mildly amusing, but admittedly very lazy and obvious observational remarks about 21st century American society and in particular its current president – even if he is never mentioned by name, it is painfully obvious that is what some of these comments are aimed at. While there are plot points and individual lines that are amusing enough, it just makes An American Pickle nothing more than extremely light and forgettable entertainment.
All of this is a shame, as Seth Rogen is very committed in both of his performances, but the unavoidable fact is that the script and story are just too weak and middle of the road to make An American Pickle anything more than a watchable, but highly forgettable experience. I don’t believe it to be a spoiler to state that the two Seth Rogen’s fall out, and once they do it produces the film’s best moments, but we all very much know how everything is going to end up. While the often-disjointed narrative and tone do sometimes make An American Pickle more of a challenge to watch than it should be and does prevent us from truly engaging with the characters on a level required for this film to be more than forgettable fluff. First time director (and regular Rogen collaborator) Brandon Tost does a competent job behind the camera, while John Guleserian’s cinematography is decent enough and the score by Michael Giacchino and Nami Melumad is very pleasant to listen to, but all of these things are just as middling as the film itself.
In fact, there is so very little to say about An American Pickle that this is the end of my review – and I indeed feel like I fraud for my review being so short, but there is quite literally so little that can be written about a film when it is so incredibly unspectacular. There is a good concept in there somewhere, and if all involved had maybe tried to take a few risks or made a bit more effort, then An American Pickle could have been a much better film, but at a suitably short 90 minutes it is certainly a passable and extremely unchallenging experience, but not one that will last in the memory for very long at all.
Though its contrived plot is happy to make use of all of the tropes associated with the genres it copies, it just doesn’t seem to even want to do anything interesting or creative with them. So, despite featuring a surprisingly engaging and diverse dual performance from Seth Rogen, An American Pickle is a watchable enough, but extremely light, generic and forgettable film.