Whilst I may not be a scientist, I do understand that soaking in pickle juice for a century may not preserve you as well as it does for Seth Rogen in his latest feature-length comedy. An American Pickle collides two wholly different worlds with one another, the modern technology and hipster attitudes of old being the new meet with a simple immigrant worker, preserved by pickle juice for years before finally making his return to civilised society. It’s the typical fish-out-of-water style, or in this case, man-out-of-pickle-juice caper, filled with shots at contemporary culture from the mind of a man whose last living memory was bashing rats with a large hammer.
Rogen picks his projects carefully, and I can certainly see the appeal of holding your name to both of the leading roles, but An American Pickle is dry on laughs, ringing out a rather bland to-and-fro between Rogen and Rogen. It’s odd that he doesn’t have much chemistry with himself, but he leans into the massive differences between the two roles with particular style and grace. Rogen arguing with himself is far drier and entertaining than it should be, but the writing could use a little work from time to time. With most of its writing catering to taking cheap jabs and pot shots at the hipster lifestyle, it’s nothing out of the ordinary and doesn’t add anything particularly funny or interesting to the ongoing mockery of the style.
Outside of the subplots, though, An American Pickle is relatively strong. It’s nothing interesting or incredible, but it provides some light entertainment, and, at the end of the day, that’s precisely what a comedy film should aim to do. The story takes an oddly compelling turn, a typical plot that showcases two men at odds with one another, but much of the humour comes from Rogen taking on himself. These moments feel more and more inconsequential as the film progresses, with a final third that feels completely irrelevant and unexpectedly rushed, especially when compared with the rest of the movie. A needless attempt to wrap up various loose ends in the final ten minutes makes for a soppy, ultimately forgettable ending.
An American Pickle is not without its moments of joy and giddy hilarity, it’s just that it suffers from a sincere lack of pacing, making the more tremendous and entertaining moments feel few and far between, a reward for managing to get through some particularly bad supporting performances and poor direction. There’s no denying the efficiency of Rogen’s leading performances, and he holds up superbly well, but An American Pickle will struggle to make its audience feel just about anything, other than a fading respect for the dual-lead, sole-performer cliché. As if there were any respect for that cheap, green screen trick in the first place.