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American Pickle, An

7/10

Stars: Seth Rogen, Sarah Snook

Director: Brandon Trost

The first 10 minutes of this Seth Rogen (vanity) project, set in 1919 Schlubska (perhaps Kosovo) are delightful, inventive and full of good guffaws. Impossible to sustain such Sacha Baron Cohen/early-Woody Allen-style goodies, of course, but there are enough laugh-out-loud moments later on to keep the viewer happy before the film goes over-sentimental on us at the end.

Rogen is bigoted Jewish peasant Herschel Greenbaum, for whom nothing goes right as he toils on the mucky land, from broken carts to snapped spades. He dreams only of one day tasting aerated water. Still, he marries Sarah (Snook) - 'she is strong and has all her teeth - top and bottom' - although they have little in common, save for both their parents having been slaughtered by Cossacks.

Even as their wedding vows are exchanged, however, the village is razed to the ground by rampaging Cossacks: the newlyweds flee to America.

Here, Herschel gains work in a pickle factory but, beset by rats there, falls into a brine vat and is pickled for eternity. Or, at least 100 years when, alive and bemused, he is released into modern Brooklyn in the custody of his great-grandson, techno-nerd Ben (also Rogen), a longtime loser.

The film sags a bit here, although still with some sharp lines, as when Herschel is startled by a black/white couple on the street. 'Yeh,' says Ben. 'Interracial couple. Totally cool, man...in some parts of the country'.

Things pick up again when Herschel walks out after a row and, raiding dustbins for supplies, proceeds to make a small fortune selling pickle jars. A jealous Ben blabs to the authorities, but Herschel bounces back, selling pickles through unpaid interns and becomes an internet sensation for his controversial (1919) views.

Again Ben plots his downfall, but the two end up in woods heading for the Canadian border. 'You have woods in Schlubska?' asks Ben. 'Forests,' Herschel replies. 'What's the difference?' 'Wolves.'

Although the satire is light and the sentiment heavy, moments like this a-plenty help to pull this one through, with Rogen, seemingly practising for a roadshow tour of Fiddler on the Roof, a lot more fun as Herschel than his tiresome great grandson.

David Quinlan

USA 2020. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers (Sony). Colour by deluxe.
89 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 04 Aug 2020