Over the last couple years, Please Don’t Destroy has gone from little-known comedy troupe to “Saturday Night Live” mainstays. Their pre-recorded sketches, most of which involve that week’s celebrity host, are routinely a highlight of the show — bits like “Three Sad Virgins,” “Molly Shannon 2K23” and “Hard Seltzer” are as off-the-wall as they are hilarious. But if brevity is the soul of wit, then transposing your three-minute sensibility onto a feature-length film is the ultimate test of one’s comedic mettle. Peacock’s “Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain” provides mixed results for the trio (real names Martin Herlihy, John Higgins and Ben Marshall), who both wrote and star in the zany adventure directed by Paul Briganti. It’s a diverting enough entertainment from a group that has repeatedly proven itself to be capable of much more.
As they do in their videos, all three go by their first names and are once again playing what appears to be fictionalized versions of themselves: best friends who do everything together, a lifelong bond at risk of fraying as they approach their 30s. Ben wants to take over the outdoors store where they all work from his father, played by Conan O’Brien, and Martin is getting baptized to please his devout girlfriend (Nichole Sakura of “Superstore”). John, meanwhile, wants things to stay the way they are for as long as possible. Hence their treasure hunt, which is prompted by the realization that a compass they found as kids may just be the key to the fabled riches: John views it as a last-ditch effort to reunite the triumvirate before their paths diverge for good.
Their journey into the woods is as zany as you’d expect and entails everything from wingsuits and a docuseries-ready cult to a hawk that doesn’t seem aware it can fly and a stunt-cast celebrity cameo. Ben, Martin and John are no less self-deprecating here than they are on “SNL,” with much of the humor coming at their expense: Ben “looks like Tim Burton drew him,” according to a park ranger (X Mayo) also vying for the treasure said to be worth $100 million, whereas Martin resembles “a colonial ghost.”
“Foggy Mountain” is never not funny, but the dictates of three-act structure necessitate that it’s less pleasantly chaotic than Please Don’t Destroy’s best work. They’re a talented bunch — all three are on the “SNL” writing team, one of comedy’s most coveted positions even as viewers continue the storied tradition of bemoaning that the show’s best days are behind it — but those talents have their clearest expression in short-form pieces that don’t require a conventional narrative. The film’s throwaway gags and one-liners are more knee-slapping than the story as a whole, which functions as a kind of ironic “Goonies” update for the streaming era.
The real highlight may well be John Goodman, who narrates the proceedings and even breaks the fourth wall at one point lest you not realize whose voice you’re hearing: “By the way, I’m John Goodman from ‘The Big Lebowski’ and a ton of other shit,” he says at the end of the first act. Quick moments like this are a reminder that Please Don’t Destroy’s comic sensibility is the same here as it is in their videos, with outlandish scenarios and non-sequitur jokes, but in terms of laughs per minute, you might be better off watching a YouTube playlist of their “SNL” work.