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Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins (2011)

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A nerdy redhead from Cockfosters discovers that he is part of an ancient magical sect. Under the eye of Pentangle, he heads to Australia to be taught the way of the witter by eccentric Bavarian filmmaker Werner Herzog.



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Title: Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins (2011)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
The Narrator
Andrew Griscti ...
Benjamin Sniddlegrass
Catherine Davies ...
Scarlett McKenna
Dorian Newstead ...
Alec Doomadgee ...
Linda Newstead ...
Aunt David Morrissey
Sarah Louise Linnegar ...
Lucy Sniddlegrass
Jon Sewell ...
Johnny Leroy
Riley Maher ...
Tim Sampson ...
Isaac Owen ...
Professor Mumblecore
Yavor Dimitrov ...
Robert Allan Zimmerman
Liam Bray ...
Student #1
Student #2


A nerdy redhead from Cockfosters discovers that he is part of an ancient magical sect. Under the eye of Pentangle, he heads to Australia to be taught the way of the witter by eccentric Bavarian filmmaker Werner Herzog.

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Release Date:

31 January 2011 (Australia)  »

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Did You Know?


The title was invented by Mark Kermode on his BBC Radio FiveLive show during a review of Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010), as part of a rant about its similarities to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001). See more »

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Top marks for effort but fails on ideas, material and execution – even those that get the in-"jokes" will struggle with it
9 February 2011 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

It is very unlikely that you have stumbled onto this film and are watching it out of context. It is almost certain that you have come to this film because you already know the joke and listen to Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo on Radio Five Live. This film was created following a throw away comment by Mark that Percy Jackson & The Lightening Thief was a rip-off of Harry Potter and could have be called anything – this title being the first thing that came to his mind. As is the way with the show, listeners got involved on the text etc and before long we had posters for this fictional film but it took a year for a listener to decide to spend their own money to make it a real film. It was only fair that I put my £7 in and give it a look.

OK, so let me get the congratulations out of the way; well done to Dylan for making this happen off a throwaway remark in the podcast – his name is all over the credits and he not only made it but also put together the premier and got lots of coverage for doing so. The effort and motivation is commendable – it is just a shame that with that motivation did not come good ideas. In essence the whole film (from title on down) is an in-joke for those that listen to Wittertainment (the in-joke name for the Kermode & Mayo film podcast); while I am not a fan of how silly they have become of late with listeners thinking up silly duo names, listing their degrees and all those "hellos" (even Jason Isaacs tried to hint he wants it wound up – it fell on deaf ears), I am "target audience" for this film. With the origins of the idea it is a film that should be funny, sharp, stylish and punchy but sadly here it is pretty much the opposite of that.

The amateur production values are to be accepted and I didn't have too much of an issue with the budget – it was the content I had issues with. All the in-jokes are here to be see (Witter, Fairport Convention, David Morrissey, Werner Herzog etc) but they are mostly done in rather obvious and unfunny ways – mostly shoehorned in and seen for miles and the audience is expected to enjoy them just because they are from the podcast. "Unfortunate Event" was well used but the majority clunk onto the screen like Jacob Marley's chains. The decision to make a film over an hour long appears to have been a mistake because what comic value could have come from the in-jokes is lost in a lot of other stuff. This "other stuff" is the same skiffle song several times, lots of pointless "plot" and lots of dialogue scenes with nothing of interest or humour said in them. Of course the production values don't help but I have seen many short films made on shoe-string budgets (including, for example, the Super8 series) which are punchy, clever, stylish and funny.

In reality this is what BSATCOP should have been – a short film, perhaps even an animation. The absurd title demands fun; it suggests a wacky film and "wacky" is rarely a quality you want to have come at you for over an hour. An overblown action animation with a sharp punchy script and an aim beyond just referencing words said on a podcast would have been great. BSATCOP should have been that; it should also have had a script that focuses on what the title is making fun of – generic Hollywood films, clichés and so on. Sadly when it comes down to it the only part of the film that felt fresh and amusing was the Bond-esque title sequence with penguins and guitars flying around the screen. After that the poor script, lack of sparkle, lack of laughs and lack of anything to really hold the interest just gradually wore me down over the remaining time (of which there was far too much). Those with no knowledge of the podcast will have turned it off after 10 minutes – those who love their Wittertainment will stick with it out of loyalty and hope, but will not find their effort rewarded.

The in-joke had potential but none of it makes it into the film. I would love to see someone take the title and make an animated short film or an online comic strip but to try and make it into a full-length (ish) film with story, characters and performances was a very tall order and it was one that Dylan is not up to. It is admirable that someone picked up on this and had the drive and motivation to make this happen – I just wish that it had been someone with good ideas.

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