Benny & Joon (1993) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG for adult themes
Running Time: 98 min.
Cast: Aidan Quinn, Mary Stuart Masterson, Johnny Depp, Julianne Moore, Oliver Platt
Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik
Screenplay: Barry Berman
Review published January 1, 2003
Perhaps this isn't the most emotionally gripping romantic comedy ever created, but amid a sea of redundant genre flicks, at least BENNY & JOON tries to be different. It probably could be better if the resulting storyline wouldn't become so obvious as soon as the characters are introduced, but this is a good ensemble of actors that breathes life into roles that aren't exactly written with depth in mind. Although Depp gets much of the attention as the film's Buster Keaton-loving clown, it's actually Quinn's performance that is the most crucial, because he must always remain down-to-earth despite the eccentricities of the people he lives with; he's the foundation by which all the others can play off of.
Quinn plays the Benny of the title, a mechanic by day, but finds his hands full when he can't keep a housekeeper willing to put up with his mentally ill sister, Juniper (or Joon for short.) Since the death of their parents, he has been the sole caretaker for Joon, but under the recommendation of her psychiatrist, he has been contemplating putting Joon away in a group home. Things seem to change for the better when a bad poker bet makes them take in another strange person, Sam, an oddball with a love of old films and the slapstick comedic stylings of Buster Keaton in particular. While Benny is having trouble committing to a relationship because of his responsibilities to Joon, Sam and Joon draw closer to each other on their own.
There isn't really very much to the story except for the colorful characters, and if you like cute films with a superficial sense of substance, BENNY & JOON should have no problems entertaining you. The acting definitely holds the film together, as we are interested in the story because we grow to like the characters. Ultimately, it's probably Depp's antics that are the only memorable elements in this sugar-coated nothing of a movie, but if you have a sweet-tooth, BENNY & JOON will satisfy your cravings.
©2003 Vince Leo