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An American Pickle First Reviews: Seth Rogen Shines in Surprisingly Sentimental Comedy

Critics say Rogen turns in some of his best work in this light, tender family drama hidden behind a seemingly wacky high-concept comedy.

by | August 5, 2020 | Comments

Subscribers of HBO MAX get two Seth Rogens for the price of one with the streaming service’s first original feature, An American Pickle. Rogen stars as a Jewish immigrant in 1919 who winds up thrust forward a century into modern America, where he meets his great-great-grandson — also played by Rogen. The one-man, two-character comedy is receiving mostly positive reviews, which highlight a sentimentality over hilarity as well as a surprising performance from its lead in his dual roles.

Here’s what critics are saying about An American Pickle:


Does HBO Max have its first hit on its hands?

It marks an auspicious beginning and is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
– Pete Hammond, Deadline

An American Pickle is an absolutely brilliant two-hander… it’s exactly what we need right now.
– Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

In a time when we can all use a good laugh, An American Pickle very much delivers.
– Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

Even premiering on HBO Max, it feels awfully inconsequential, like an ambitious Funny or Die sketch.
– Matt Singer, ScreenCrush


Seth Rogen in An American Pickle

(Photo by HBO Max)

How is Seth Rogen?

This dual performance is the best, purest thing he’s ever done as an artist, in front of or behind the camera.
Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com

An American Pickle features what may be the most mature performance we’ve seen from Seth Rogen in a while.
Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

The most exciting part of this pickle is Rogen’s breaking of his manchild mold to explore roles more challenging, rich, and uniquely funny.
Kristy Puchko, IGN

An American Pickle gets by on the strength (or make that strengths) of Rogen’s performance.
Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

Rogen is so adept at breathing depth into two distinct roles.
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

Both roles ultimately demand a lot from Rogen, and he is exceptional.
Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend


So two Seth Rogens isn’t too much Seth Rogen?

I was expecting something along the lines of Adam Sandler in Jack and Jill, but what I got instead is reminiscent of Nic Cage in Adaptation.
Rendy Jones, Rendy Reviews

The movie trickery, laid on with extensive CGI effects, is impressive, aided immeasurably by Rogen in top form on both accounts.
Pete Hammond, Deadline

While the premise is promising, the execution aches from the growing pains of Rogen’s shifting persona.
Kristy Puchko, IGN


Seth Rogen in An American Pickle

(Photo by HBO Max)

Is it funny?

It’s not laugh-out-loud funny; it’s folksy funny.
Michael Roffman, Consequence of Sound

An American Pickle is more interesting than laugh-out-loud hilarious.
Mike Ryan, Uproxx

[It’s] a comedy too contrived to be convincing and too formulaic to be funny.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

There are some scattered laughs but it’s not particularly funny.
Brian Truitt, USA Today

An American Pickle lacks the focus to be hilarious or emotional. Instead, it’s a frustrating, ramshackle affair.
Matt Goldberg, Collider


Does it hold particular appeal if you’re Jewish?

An American Pickle is most certainly the type of film that will appeal more so to Jewish viewers than a broad comedy audience.
Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

The humor is for the most part genuinely funny, and even doubly funny if you share in the Jewish references.
Gabriella Geisinger, Digital Spy


Seth Rogen in An American Pickle

(Photo by HBO Max)

Is this a more sentimental affair?

There’s a lot of heart behind the picture’s sentiments about familial honor, work ethic and religious heritage.
Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

An American Pickle uses arguably the dumbest concept imaginable to tell a surprisingly tender story.
Brandon Katz, Observer

There’s an undeniable and lovely sweetness at play in this film; a type of warmth and acceptance that helps elevate the entire package.
Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

An American Pickle is swift and nimble enough to avoid weighing itself down with schmaltz.
A.O. Scott, New York Times

Its soulful sweetness outweighs its flaws.
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter


An American Pickle premieres on HBO Max on Thursday, August 6.

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Adjusted Score: 80.122%
Critics Consensus: An American Pickle lacks the tart snap viewers might expect given its creative premise, but Seth Rogen's dual performance makes this a low-key comedy to relish.
Synopsis: Seth Rogen stars as Herschel Greenbaum, a struggling laborer who immigrates to America in 1919 with dreams of building a... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Brandon Trost

Thumbnail image by HBO Max

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