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MGM Studios DVD presents
Benny & Joon (1993)

"Some cultures are defined by their relationship to cheese."
- Joon (Mary Stuart Masterson)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: February 28, 2001

Stars: Johnny Depp, Mary Stuart Masterson, Aidan Quinn
Other Stars: Julainne Moore, Oliver Platt, Dan Hedaya, William H. Macy
Director: Jeremiah Chechik

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: PG for (a scene of mild sensuality and one use of harsh language)
Run Time: 01h:38m:19s
Release Date: January 09, 2001
UPC: 027616857736
Genre: romantic comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-B+A- A+

DVD Review

Nothing out of the ordinary happens in Benny and Joon. There are no explosions, no gunfights, and there isn't a single death in the entire film. To put it simply, the film is as harmless as a picture can get, and I am thankful for it. In the past two months I have reviewed films about the devil, an invisible man offing his colleagues and Survivor; I was due for a good-natured movie.

Joon (Masters) is a woman diagnosed with a mental illness that at times causes her bouts of strange behavior. Her brother Benny (Quinn), with whom she lives, hires housekeeper after housekeeper to look after her while he works. Ultimately Joon's ability to drive away anyone who tries to help her, in rapid succession, leaves Benny out of choices when Sam (Depp), a dreamer with a love for classic movies (especially Buster Keaton and Chaplin), comes into their lives. Sam soon shows that not only is he excellent at doing housework, but a good companion for Joon; but it isn't long until the two fall in love and they find that not everything will turn out to be happily-ever-after.

Benny and Joon is far from flawless. The plot has its share of problems, the largest of which is that some of the characters are never fully realized. Sam is a bit of a clown, yet there is a moment where that exterior is shed with a single line, when he asks, "How sick is she?" That moment is so perfectly realized that it is a shame that he soon goes back into his lighter state. Perhaps the biggest problem with the movie is that Joon's illness is never really explained. We know that she is sick, but we never find out what her affliction is. A better screenplay would have shown us what is causing the lead character harm, but here it is simply passed over.

Mary Stuart Masterson, (Fried Green Tomatoes) gives a convincing performance as Joon. Some of her scenes are a bit too heavy-handed but for the most part she makes us feel for Joon and, in a film such as this, that is the most important thing. Aidan Quinn, in a somewhat lesser role as Joon's brother and the opponent of her finding true love, does a nice job. The real standout is Johnny Depp, who plays Sam as such a likeable character that it is no surprise that the movie gets considerably better when he is in it. If Benny and Joon proves anything, it shows that Depp is truly a gifted comic actor. Julianne Moore, who just happens to be my favorite actress, does a nice job as Benny's love interest.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Benny and Joon offers a wonderful anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer. The blacks levels are nearly perfect and the fleshtones are natural. Colors are consistently vibrant from the opening scenes of Joon painting, to the greens of the grass throughout the rest of the film. There is no visible edge enhancement or artifacting, although the transfer does look a bit hazy at times in some of the indoor scenes. Over all this is a very nice transfer for an older film.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanish and French and Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 2.0 surround provided for Benny and Joon is better than most other 2.0 mixes I have heard. In a film like this there isn't much for the surrounds to do, but when they come alive they reproduce the score beautifully as well as provide ambient sounds. Bass is used once in the film during a thunderstorm and the left and right speakers have a nice separation, creating a nice front heavy soundfield. Dialogue is clear and easy to hear, although at some moments it can be a bit too muddled. A French 2.0 and a Spanish 2.0 track are also provided.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish and French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Jeremiah Chechik
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Costume and make up tests
  2. Stunt Reel
Extras Review: A feature length commentary by director Jeremiah Chechik leads off a fairly impressive list of special features for Benny and Joon. Chechik, who is always welcome at my house since he directed the classic National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, starts off a bit slow, but eventually opens up toward the halfway point of the film. He has a lot to say about the actors and it is apparent that he really likes the film, which is always a good thing. Chechik also lends his voice to two deleted scenes, which can only be viewed with commentary.

A Costume/Make-Up Tests and Stunt Reel is a short and non-informative look at the actors in makeup and ultimately is nothing more than seeing the front and sides of their faces. The Stunt Reel shows Depp practicing his Keaton like moments for the film.

The film's theatrical trailer is also offered. And finally, my favorite extra is the music video for the song I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers. While I will admit that the song isn't very good, it reminds me of high school, which at times can be a good thing, though not always.

Extras Grade: A+


Final Comments

Marketing in the film industry often baffles me. Having watched the trailer for Benny and Joon before watching the film, I initially thought that it was more of an offbeat love story than a "dramedy" about mental illness. For most, Benny and Joon will be a disappointment, but if you take it for what it is, an interesting film with different perspectives about love and hope, then you will like it. Recommended.


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