A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that An American Pickle is a fish-out-of-water/family-feud comedy starring Seth Rogen in two roles: Herschel, a man from 1919 who wakes up in the present day, and Ben, his great-grandson. There's a bit of blood (mostly in the 1919 sequences, as Cossacks attack), and characters bash rats with a club and bite the head off of a fish. There's also some punching and fighting, and death is discussed. Two characters fall in love and get married, but sex isn't an issue. Language includes a few uses of "s--t" and some ethnic slurs that are played for laughs: "dumb Polacks," "filthy Jews," etc. It's a pretty one-track movie, but Rogen's performance and a smattering of giggles hold it together.
- Parents say
- Kids say
Keep your expectations low for this Seth Rogan low-key comedy. Not as great as it should’ve been but pretty funny and even a bit emotional
What's the story?
In AN AMERICAN PICKLE, Herschel Greenbaum (Seth Rogen) is an immigrant U.S. worker in 1919 who endures hard times but marries the girl of his dreams, Sarah (Sarah Snook), and lands a job clubbing rats in a pickle factory. He falls into a pickle vat just as the factory is closed down. One hundred years later, Herschel is discovered, perfectly preserved. He learns he has a great-grandson, Ben (also Rogen), an app designer who lives in modern-day Brooklyn. They visit Sarah's grave, and Herschel is incensed by a billboard. He tries to cut it down, but he and Ben are arrested. Then, because of the arrest, Ben can't sell his app. They fight, and Herschel storms off to start his own pickle business (using what he can find in the trash), while Ben tries to sabotage his work. Can these two outcasts become a family?
Is it any good?
An uncharacteristically low-key comedy for Rogen, this comedy is hit-and-miss overall, but Rogen's accomplished double performance and the movie's sweet, winning attitude eventually carry the day. Directed by Brandon Trost, a cinematographer on other Rogen movies like This Is the End and The Disaster Artist, from a story and screenplay by SNL writer Simon Rich, An American Pickle is essentially a one-man show. The second-billed actor, the talented Snook, appears only in the movie's first 10 to 15 minutes. And other performers appear only for a couple of minutes each.
But Rogen nails it. His Herschel starts out as a bit of a caricature, rolling his dialogue through a comic Eastern European accent. But eventually his cleverness and heart come through. And as Ben, Rogen has created perhaps his sweetest character to date: He's kind (his first reaction to Herschel is to invite him to stay in his apartment), hopeful, and even a little timid. The fish-out-of-water jokes and family-feud jokes aren't really enough to sustain a feature-length movie (not even a tight 90-minute one), but they're sporadically funny, and they continue into the final act (where many comedies tend to drop the jokes in favor of wrapping up the plot). In short, An American Pickle offers enough crispy, crunchy giggles to make it worth a look.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about An American Pickle's violence. How much blood is shown? How is it used to illustrate the sequences set in 1919? How do they differ from the modern sequences?
What's the relationship like between the two Greenbaums? How is it similar to, or different from, your own family relationships?
What is a "fish out of water" story? Have you ever been in a situation in which you felt like you didn't belong? How can people help each other in these kinds of situations? How does the way Herschel speaks about others and sees the world set him apart from Ben and his contemporaries?
In the story, Ben is reluctant to submit his app because he "wants it to be perfect." Have you ever felt that way when working on a project? How do you know when something is finished?
Ben and Herschel get a happy ending after they find a way to achieve financial success. Is financial success the only way to find happiness? What are some others?
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