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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

An American Pickle (PG) - 89 minutes

Talk about getting yourself into a pickle.

Herschel Greenbaum (Seth Rogen) most certainly does in more ways than one in a decidedly quirky story that says blood is thicker than water.

It is 1919 and Herschel is digging ditches for a living in Eastern Europe in a fictional place called Schlupsk.

When he sets eyes upon Sarah (Sarah Snook) it is love at first sight for him and as the relationship develops the pair aspire to better themselves.

They marry and the future is looking bright until the Cossacks invade.

The Greenbaums emigrate to America, the land of opportunity, where Herschel finds work in a pickle factory and Sarah gets pregnant.

But then, horror of horrors, the factory where he works is overrun by rats, condemned and shut down, but no one notices that Herschel has lost his footing and fallen into a large vat of brine.

Surprisingly, he is found alive 100 years later and the saltwater has preserved him as the same age and looking identical to what he looked like a century earlier.

Although the world has totally changed in that time and his beloved wife has, naturally, passed on, Herschel is connected with his only living relative.

That is his great grandson Ben (Seth Rogen), who is the same age as Herschel was when he fell into the vat.

Herschel is a religious Jew whose strident old fashioned views offend.

Ben, who – as an adult – lost both his parents in a car accident, is anything but.

Herschel is hardworking and resourceful.

Ben has been developing an app for five years but can’t find an investor to take it to market.

An incident in a rundown cemetery involving a billboard for Vodka results in a massive falling out between the pair.

And it’s at that point that the film really takes off.

Simon Rich has adapted his own 2013 New Yorker short story Sell Out for the big screen, with Brandon Trost making his feature film directorial debut.

I must say that as much as I wanted to like all of it, An American Pickle is bitsy.

That is, there were bits I liked and other bits I didn’t.

I didn’t mind the setup, shown in old style TV dimensions.

However, it tended to lose its way when it tried to establish a strong familial link between Herschel and Ben (by which time the film had reverted to cinematic ratio).

Unfortunately, there were flat patches and I thought An American Pickle laboured until the antipathy between the pair was cemented.

Even then, though, there was an unevenness to what followed.

There were significant plot leaps that undermined the overall flow and my enjoyment.

It wasn’t as clever, as insightful, or as funny as it could have been.

Still, Rogen is highly capable playing opposite himself – effortlessly.

If the scripting and continuity had been better, the result would have also been better.

So, An American Pickle showed promise and had its moments, but wasn’t entirely satisfying.

Rated PG, it scores a 6 out of 10.


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