Eastern Europe in 1919 was a grim place for Russian Jews, who were often attacked by Cossacks. So Herschel Greenbaum (Seth Rogen) and his wife Sarah (Sarah Snook) flee to America. Herschel finds a job in a local pickle factory, where he falls into a vat of pickled fish. This goes unnoticed and Herschel remains there, preserved in pickle brine. Two young boys discover Herschel 100 years later, when they follow their drone into the abandoned factory and open the vat.
Herschel wakes up in modern-day Brooklyn. He’s taken into hospital, and staff find his great-grandson, Ben Greenbaum (Seth Rogen), Herschel’s only living relative. Ben initially cares for Herschel but they soon fall out because of their opposing views on just about everything. Herschel makes money by doing what he knows, pickling fish and selling them, and he becomes notorious while Ben struggles to make a living. Ben plots Herschel’s downfall by using social media as a way to expose the outmoded values Herschel still holds.
Herschel is eventually driven out of America and escapes to Canada, where he and Ben manage to reconcile their differences.
Loss of parents; religious values and beliefs; religious intolerance; hate speech
An American Pickle has some violence. For example:
- Cossacks wielding scimitars rush into a village and burn it down.
- Herschel chases rats around the factory with a sledgehammer. He gets splattered in blood when he kills one.
- Herschel punches a doctor.
- Herschel threatens a worker with violence when he puts a billboard above Sarah’s grave. Herschel punches the worker, and it turns into a fight between Herschel and the other workers.
- Herschel and Ben verbally argue and shout at each other.
- An angry mob protest at Herschel’s rally.
- Herschel is chased out of the auditorium by an audience of angry people, who throw things at him.
- Hershel smashes Ben’s window to get into Ben’s apartment.
- Ben and Herschel run away from border guards. Ben falls down and injures his hand.
- Herschel tells Ben how Sarah used to chase wolves with sticks and club them to death.
- Herschel punches Ben.
An American Pickle has some sexual references. For example:
- Herschel and Sarah kiss at their wedding.
- Sarah becomes pregnant.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
An American Pickle shows some use of substances. For example:
- Characters drink at bars.
- Some characters smoke.
- A scene shows a billboard for Vodka.
Nudity and sexual activity
The following products are displayed or used in An American Pickle: McDonalds, kombucha, Apple iPad and Twitter.
An American Pickle has some coarse language and name-calling, including racist and ethnic insults.
Ideas to discuss with your children
An American Pickle is a comedy that looks at the differences in values between the early-20th and early-21st centuries.
Herschel is used to speaking his mind, and he attacks values like gender and race equality and religious respect and diversity. His position relates to the use of free speech and the ‘right to offend’. Younger viewers are likely to misunderstand many of these ideas, so we therefore don’t recommend this movie for children under 12 years. We also recommend parental guidance for children aged 12-13 years, because of some of the extreme comments in the movie.
The main messages from this movie are the importance of family and the need to compromise to achieve success.
Values in An American Pickle that you could reinforce with your children include the following:
- Racial stereotypes are now outdated.
- Denigrating others for their beliefs, race or gender is not OK.
- Families should work together and support each other.
This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like the following:
- Why does Herschel hold such hateful beliefs about people who have different values from him?
- Why does Herschel resort to the use of violence to solve his problems?