An American Pickle: what you need to know about the Seth Rogen movie

Seth Rogen doubles up in this week's off-the-wall comedy An American Pickle. The Knocked Up star plays both a 20th-century Jewish immigrant and his relative in this story of a man out of time. With the film on release in Cineworld from this Friday, here's what you need to know about it.


What's the story?

Herschel Greenbaum (Rogen) is an early-20th-century Jewish immigrant to the United States. He has arrived with his wife Sarah (Sarah Snook) in the hopes of a better life. However, he falls into a giant vat of pickles, which preserves him for 100 years. Unthawed a century later, Herschel finds himself stranded in a world he no longer understands. Fortunately, he has a descendant in the form of his grandson Ben (also Rogen) to help guide him through.


Is An American Pickle based on a graphic novel?

Not a graphic novel, but a short story named 'Sell Out'. Author Simon Rich first published his two-part work in 2013 in The New Yorker, building on his experience writing for Saturday Night Live. Rich adapts his own story for the big screen, so those who were fans of the original can expect something pretty faithful. Plus, he also contributed story material to Disney-Pixar's Oscar-winning Inside Out, so he appears to know what he's doing, in spite of his lean years. (He is but 36 years old.)


Which Seth Rogen collaborators have worked on the movie?

The film is the directorial debut of Brandon Trost, former cinematographer on Rogen vehicle This is the End. You'll remember that as the raucous apocalypse comedy in which Rogen and his assembled co-stars (including James Franco and Jonah Hill) play themselves, before being mugged by Emma Watson. ("Hermione stole our s**t!") Trost also worked on both of the Neighbours movies, starring Rogen, The Interview and The Disaster Artist. 

Rogen shares producing duties with Evan Goldberg, a close friend and collaborator with whom he's worked on Sausage Party, This is the End and many others. Sausage Party was, rather infamously, the knockabout and decidedly adult animation about living food that culminated in an orgiastic finale. Throughout their various movies, Rogen and Goldberg have honed a signature mix of crudeness and sweetness, although we can expect An American Pickle to be somewhat gentler, as it's rated PG-13 in America, as opposed to R. (The verdict is for language and some rude humour.)


What has Seth Rogen said about the movie?

Rogen says that he was inspired to adapt the movie based on his experience of meeting Simon Rich. He told Entertainment Weekly: I knew Simon from Saturday Night Live, that was how I first met him. But a lot of the motivation for the writing of the novella and the movie itself came from something he said which was, 'I saw a picture of my grandfather when he was my age, and all I could think was that this guy would hate me.'"

Rogen said this also struck a chord: "My grandfather was in World War II, he was a professional football player. When I was a kid I had a hangnail on my toe, and he literally ripped my entire toenail off and I had to go to the hospital to get it fixed, you know? He was a tough guy.

"If he had met me when we were both in our mid-30s, he probably would have beaten the s**t out of me, and I think that that is something that I really thought a lot about with these characters. One of them lives a very hard life, carries himself in such a way where at any moment he might have to fight someone to the death. So I thought of my own grandfather, and how he was just ready to go — like, he could tear an apple in half with his bare hands."


What have the reviews said?

The film has generated a mixed-to-positive response. Much of the praise has been reserved for Rogen's impressive dual performance, with Rolling Stone's Pete Travers observing: "Did you hear the one about a Jewish immigrant who falls in a pickle barrel and wakes up 100 years later to meet his grown, great-grandson? Seth Rogen plays both roles so well that this shapeless, uneven comedy seems better than it is."

Elsewhere, The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw is somewhat more positive: "What was a very funny piece of writing has become a funny film, with a broad streak of conservative sentimentality added like artificial flavouring, all about an innocent in New York in the fish-out-of-water tradition of Borat or Crocodile Dundee. The film gives us some wry insights about work, family, the American dream and an ironised Topol-like wail of 'Tradition!'"


When is An American Pickle released in Cineworld?

The film hits us on 7th August. Click here to book your tickets for An American Pickle.