Most of us are willing to buy into a time-travel scenario. All we ask is that the filmmakers supply some kind of half-believable premise (a speeding DeLorean with a flux capacitor, a spinning-wheel time machine built by H.G. Wells) that doesn’t make us choke.

Seth Rogen, Simon Rich and Brandon Trost‘s An American Pickle (HBO Max, 8.6.20) doesn’t even try to respect the basic rules. By insisting on the ridiculous — that a bearded Yiddish immigrant becomes mummified in 1920 after falling into a vat of pickles (i.e., brined alive, escaping death) — they’re more or less giving the friendly finger to HBO Max subscribers.

Basic message: “We could’ve come up with a better time-travel device but we couldn’t be bothered, and you guys don’t give a shit anyway so what does it matter?”

Does anyone care about a relationship between a couple of Jewish dudes separated by 100 years? A Jewish guy who falls into a vat of pickle juice in 1965 might’ve worked. Then you’d have a culture-clash scenario between a young boomer and his Millennial-aged nephew or grandson. People could relate to that on some level, but who cares about an old-school guy from Eastern Europe (basically a riff on the married Yiddish guy from the beginning of A Serious Man)?

Boilerplate: “Directed by Brandon Trost and based on Simon Rich’s 2013 New Yorker novella, An American Pickle stars Seth Rogen as Herschel Greenbaum, a struggling laborer who immigrates to America in 1920 with dreams of building a better life. One day while working at his factory job, he falls into a vat of pickles and is brined for 100 years. The brine preserves him perfectly and when he emerges in present-day Brooklyn, and he finds that he hasn’t aged a day,” blah blah.