Seth Rogen‘s An American Pickle is now available to stream. This is the first original movie to be released on HBO Max and has a real humdinger of an elevator pitch. Based on a short story by Simon Rich, Rogen plays two roles. The first is a regular modern-day millennial struggling under typical economic pressures in the big city, and the second is his ancestor from the 1920s who fell into a vat of pickle juice and awakens perfectly preserved in the present. The two must figure out how to get along, each learning from the other’s experience.
The trailer drew a lot of attention to the movie and it looks like the high expectations have mostly been met. It currently sits at 74% on the Tomatometer with broadly positive reviews. Particular praise is reserved for Rogen’s performance in the two lead roles, with critics concluding that he’s got great chemistry with himself, that he nails the jokes and gets the touching stuff right. In addition, the high concept is well executed, which NPR’s Linda Holmes says is “approaching the idea of immigration to the United States in a way I haven’t seen.”
But it’s not all positive. A common criticism is that An American Pickle feels scattershot and that it “never quite decides what it wants to be.” In my experience, stuff like that means critics didn’t like the film, but can’t really articulate why. More direct are the reviews that say it’s just not as funny as the premise might indicate. The consensus appears to be that while it will make you chuckle, there are no big “guffaw” moments that you might expect from a Seth Rogen film.
In any case, now that it’s available, we can see what actual audiences make of it. Personally, I’m planning on checking out An American Pickle tonight. Seth Rogen has matured into a really interesting actor and I’m hyped up by the near-universal praise of his performance here.