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Please Don’t Destroy isn’t just a sketch comedy troupe, they’re one of the biggest of the meme generation, breaking through during the pandemic with short videos on TikTok and Twitter enough to get the attention of a comedy kingmaker. Since being hired by “Saturday Night Live” in 2021 as writers, they have filled the Lonely Island role of creating digital shorts, with a decent enough batting average of laughter to make me optimistic about their feature debut “Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain,” a comedy once planned for theatrical release but now being dropped on Peacock. I’m still optimistic even if “Foggy Mountain” has the common problem of sketch artists turned filmmakers in that the runtime feels like a lot for a few jokes. There’s a hysterical short film in here—something longer than their “SNL” sketches to be sure, but not quite feature-length. However, enough jokes connected with my funny bone to lead me to believe that they could one day make their “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” one of the funnier movies to come from any “SNL” vet. This one is more forgettable than it could have been but also nowhere near the disaster that often comes when members of Lorne Michaels' troupe are allowed out during the day.
John Goodman playfully narrates “The Treasure of Foggy Mountain,” a tale that opens with its three leads at a crossroads. If there’s a lead, it’s arguably John (John Higgins), who plays the ordinary guy who worries that his best friends since childhood will leave him behind in their new lives. Martin (Martin Herlihy) seems the most likely to ditch his friends as his girlfriend (Nichole Sakura of “Superstore”) is pushing him into a life of intense religious practice. Meanwhile, Ben (Ben Marshall) wants to make it in the business world and impress his dad (Conan O’Brien), who owns the Trout Plus superstore where the three not-quite men work. O’Brien gets a lot out of very little, reminding one of his fearless comic timing. The same can be said of Bowen Yang and a very funny cameo from Gaten Matarazzo of “Stranger Things.” There are just enough highlights here, even if a lot of them come from performers other than PDD.
John becomes inspired by a legend of a nearby mountain, encouraging his buddies to go on a treasure hunt that they’ve known about for years, searching for a bust of Marie Antoinette worth millions of dollars. The adventure takes them into the dangerous world of nature, where they get hunted by a hawk and run into a pair of rangers named Taylor (X Mayo) and Megan (Megan Stalter), who has a romantic connection with John even as the ladies are trying to get to the treasure first themselves. Eventually, they end up in the grip of a cult (led by Yang), and it seems like “Foggy Mountain” will come in for a reasonable landing, but it has about a half-hour left. The final act of the first film by Please Don’t Destroy has a couple of inspired bits, but one really starts to feel the length of a movie that’s not all that long.
Part of the problem is that the guys are too thinly defined for a 90+ minute movie. They kind of exist in a valley between the surreal humor of performers like Kyle Mooney and the more relatable man-children of producer Judd Apatow's films. So they get lost too often in their own movie, hitting jokes now and then but never finding characters.
That might not matter in the right circumstances. I would never suggest that one needs to take illegal substances to better appreciate a comedy, but there’s a chance that “The Treasure of Foggy Mountain” might work better after a night at the bar than it does in the middle of a weekday. It feels like a movie designed for groups of people to enjoy together when a friend's laughter and a drink in your hand can make things like pacing and repeated jokes that don’t work the first time almost funny on their own. The trio that makes up Please Don’t Destroy is funny enough (even if it's more as writers than actors at this phase), but they should collaborate with another troupe next time to hone how to translate their sketch comedy skills to feature length. Maybe a Lonely Island crossover? Let’s get Connor4Real on Foggy Mountain and make comedy history.
On Peacock today.
Ben Marshall as Ben
Martin Herlihy as Martin
John Higgins as John
Conan O'Brien as Farley Patterson
Cedric Yarbrough as Gates
John Goodman as Narrator (voice)