Please Don’t Destroy, the comedy troupe comprising NYU alums Ben Marshall, John Higgins, and Martin Herlihy, broke through the haze of hopeful comedians with quick-hitting sketches on social media. Soon after their speedy Internet fame, the three writers joined Saturday Night Live to produce more short videos, this time for a show that had already employed two of their fathers. The group weaves together a mixture of Gen Z and Millennial charm, striving for weirdness just as much as witty comedy. Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain serves as the trio’s first foray into film, the three leading and sharing co-writing credits––an apt reminder that some jokes shouldn’t run for 90 minutes.
The Treasure of Foggy Mountain begins with Marshall, Higgins, and Herlihy playing versions of themselves, albeit much less successful, as three roommates all working for a Bass Pro Shops-esque establishment. Like their skits, the film excels when it is the three friends riffing and the comedy looks effortless. The first act of the Paul Briganti-directed feature succeeds in large part to this easygoing dynamic. Once the story stretches, the thinness of its premise shows through and writing goes from loose to sloppy, charming to grating.
Fellow comedians Bowen Yang, Meg Stalter, and Conan O’Brien join the trio’s journey. They even got the legendary John Goodman to narrate, though his recognizable voice proves an absurd, unnecessary addition: every line he reads acts as a wink to the audience, a knowing nod that the Please Don’t Destroy guys are in on the joke. But it cheapens the script and characters, making them not alternate, relatable versions of themselves but caricatures, serving as another reminder that these comedians have received seemingly unlimited support.
The Treasure of Foggy Mountain still showcases their collective talent. The jokes land with some consistency through the first hour, and performances––while lacking any dramatic chops––all contain warmth and charm. Even if the laughs might be cheap, they’re laughs all the same. Seeing this in a packed theater with a willing audience elevated the comedy to likely undeserving heights, yet I can’t deny there’s fun to be had: the trio has tremendous chemistry, clearly enjoying making this film together, and part of that charm comes through in the final product.
Yet issues stack as Foggy Mountain progresses, as the jokes become tired and overused. The recurring bits don’t work and side characters, outside of a wonderful and hilarious Stalter, seem thrown in for name value and star power. It’s quietly understood that none of these figures have or need backgrounds; they, like Goodman, become filler in a sea of jokes that last shorter than some of the punchlines.
The nail in the coffin comes with the film’s set pieces. In this project, the larger the scale, the worse the execution. The SNL writers fill their third act with multiple set pieces, each suffering from lack of budget and distension. The Treasure of Foggy Mountain, like other SNL features that have come before it, runs long, losing the initial charm of its leads and the interplay that make Please Don’t Destroy’s skits funny instead of exhausting. The comedy troupe might have a great comedy in them; this isn’t it.
Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain is now streaming on Peacock