Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain (2023)
Director: Paul Briganti
Screenwriters: Martin Herlihy, John Higgins, Ben Marshall
Starring: Martin Herlihy, John Higgins, Ben Marshall, Conan O’Brien, John Goodman, Bowen Yang
October 9th, 2021. The first episode of the forty-seventh season of ‘Saturday Night Live’ and the debut of Please Don’t Destroy with their short video ‘Hard Seltzer.’ Consisting of three New York comedians, Ben Marshall, John Higgins, and Martin Herlihy, the troupe almost instantly skyrocketed to fame after only four years together as a group. Now, after three seasons with SNL, the trio bring us their first feature film Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain. SNL stars like Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy and Tina Fey have all gone on to bigger things, though the results are not always so pretty – some acts have failed to make a splash and some sketches that were turned into films have flopped. So the question is, how will Please Don’t Destroy fair?
The film stars the three comics as themselves, the exception being that they live, work and do everything together. When they realise that they don’t like their life trajectory, they set off to find a gold treasure that is rumoured to be buried in the nearby mountain.
Unlike the fictional versions of themselves in the film, it is clear that the trajectory of the boys’ popularity is one that not only they believe in, but in which many others do too. After only three years on the show, they earned a credit in SNL’s opening montage. Credited as “A Film by Please Don’t Destroy”, it marks the first time since 2008 that a recurring segment has its own credit in the opening; a reward that was not even afforded to the insanely popular The Lonely Island. Equally so, the opportunity to write and star in a film as themselves shows the belief that many have in the popularity of Please Don’t Destroy.
The movie opens with a narration from John Goodman explaining the lore of the titular treasure; a bust of Marie Antoinette, worth $100 million, was hidden in Foggy Mountain by French explorer Jean Pierre La Roche and the key, a golden compass, was found by the three boys as children. Flashforward fifteen years and we meet the Ben, John and Martin of today through a sequence in which they prepare to make breakfast and go to work, a sequence of events which continuously takes hilarious left turns including roller skates and underage drinking.
The film then smash cuts to Ben’s father in the form of Conan O’Brien, the owner of the store that the three work at, screaming “where the fuck were you!? You’re three hours late!” The story begins to unravel. We learn that Ben wishes to earn his father’s approval and take over the store, whereas Martin is trying to keep his girlfriend happy by going through with an adult baptism. As for John, he has no plans nor prospects. Worried about losing his friends, he proposes that they hunt for the treasure.
The story, in premise, structure and character development is far from original. The friendship of the three is predictably tested, and there comes a point where it seems as though they can’t move past their issues but in the end they remain best friends. It’s a tried and tested formula that, though not necessarily bad, is instantly recognisable. Ben, John and Martin’s sense of humour is far from traditional and so, to deliver it in the form of a traditional story allows for more accessible viewing for new viewers, all the while keeping much of the same humour that fans have come to know and love.
Similar to the writing and performance style they have become known for, the editing of the film is very in line with that of their regular sketches. Fast paced and manic, the editing allows for maximum engagement and a whole lot of laughs through unexpected sight gags and jump cuts.
By far the biggest challenge for PDD in this film was to take their style of comedy (which is usually told in three to five minute sketches) and stretch it out into a full feature film. Though there are little segments of the film that feel like their own individual sketches, they keep recurring and eventually combine together to tell a nicely intertwined story. From park rangers who wish to steal the treasure for themselves to cults, or John falling in love to a particularly sassy hawk, all of these come together well to tell the full story. It is in this sense that Foggy Mountain feels closer to traditional silent comedies like Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last, a film that similarly tells many little stories in order to make one complete narrative.
This film does not, however, feel as though it will work for those who are not familiar with Please Don’t Destroy or who are not fans of that type of humour. The group’s eccentric form of delivery, performance and writing may distance some audience members. The Treasure of Foggy Mountain is a movie made for the fans.
With their feature film debuts, Ben Marshall, John Higgins and Martin Herlihy bring their A-game in every single aspect of production. The jokes come quick and fast, and the situations they put themselves into are nothing short of ridiculous. Playing themselves, the three bring their likeable personalities and adorable chemistry to craft a trio of characters that are not only hilarious but who we care for and whose company we love to be a part of. Though every cast member does a fine job, it is when one or all of Please Don’t Destroy are on screen that we laugh the hardest. Moreso, they make it seem natural, as though comedy is second nature to them.
With The Treasure of Foggy Mountain, Please Don’t Destroy may not be making unforgettable characters or legendary films like fellow SNL alum movies The Blues Brothers and Wayne’s World, but by presenting themselves as the heroes of the story they create a movie that represents their brand and elevates it in the process.
The Treasure of Foggy Mountain is a wonderful new addition to PDD’s growing library, and is evidence of their popularity and talent. Proving themselves as one of the best comedy acts in all of the United States – better yet, the world – one can only hope that their sophomore effort will be as good as Foggy Mountain.