Please Don’t Destroy’s ‘Treasure of Foggy Mountain’ Demonstrates the Comedy Rule of Three
It’s tempting to compare Please Don’t Destroy to the Lonely Island, the digital short trio that preceded them on Saturday Night Live. The groups’ origin stories are similar -- three youthful friends share a sense of humor and ambition, create goofy videos that catch fire online, then find themselves creating buzzy content for SNL. But as evidenced in PDD’s new movie — Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain debuts today on Peacock — the new kids in town have a vibe all their own.
The biggest difference — for better and for worse? — is that Please Don’t Destroy is a true ensemble. From the moment Lorne Michaels hired Andy Samberg as a cast member while relegating the talented Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer to the writers’ room, it was clear that Lonely Island was driven by Samberg’s goofy charisma. Please Don’t Destroy, on the other hand, doesn’t have a stand-out member — Martin Herlihy, Ben Marshall, and John Higgins are funny guys on equal footing. In Treasure of Foggy Mountain, none of them stands out above the others, a fact that we’ll treat as a feature, not a bug.
As far as plot goes, Foggy Mountain follows the tried and true formula employed by Adam Sandler in Billy Madison and Andy Samberg in Hot Rod — our heroes are in an eternal state of arrested development. Each member is given a minor character flaw to solve by the movie’s end — Ben needs to win the approval of his dad (Conan O’Brien having a glorious time playing a total dick), Martin must embrace his wild side despite the disapproval of his religious girlfriend, and John just wants to hang with his friends forever. That’s all cookie-cutter stuff, so it’s the weirdness around the margins that matters.
For the most part, Foggy Mountain delivers with flying wing suits, flaming genitalia, and an unhinged Bowen Yang as a treasure seeker/cult leader. It’s sort of refreshing to watch an R-rated comedy that doesn’t rely on gross-out histrionics simply to prove that it’s “outrageous.” But it’s not hard to understand why it was pulled from a theatrical release in favor of the foul-mouthed Fidos of Strays — likable is fine, but laugh-out-loud is better.
It may be that Please Don’t Destroy’s true comedy talent is in creating three-minute sketches — the best moments in Treasure of Foggy Mountain are just that, self-contained episodes that deliver goofy laughs. Stitching them together doesn’t necessarily make for a great comedy film, or at least not a classic one. Streaming is the perfect home for it — you might find yourself returning to Foggy Mountain as late-night comfort food or a laundry-folding companion. Pick up at any point and you’ll get 15 minutes of chuckles before you move on to whatever life dials up next.
But don’t be surprised if you get sucked in by the — okay, I’ll say it — wholesome friendship story that holds Foggy Mountain together. Here’s where Please Don’t Destroy’s sweet camaraderie works to its advantage — as characters and as comedians, these guys need each other. Even if you’re not doubled over with laughter, you just might find yourself rooting for them to stick it to Conan O’Brien once and for all.