Benny & Joon is a 1993 comedy film directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik. Aidan Quinn plays Benny from the title, a small town auto mechanic, who when not taking care of cars, is busy taking care of his sister Joon (played by Mary Stuart Masterson). He more or less is forced into this role, as his sister has a mental illness, forcing her to stay in her room painting for the majority of the day. After bringing her along for one of his poker sessions, Joon plays a game behind his back and loses. The stakes required the loser to take one of Benny’s friend’s cousin Sam (Johnny Depp) home with them. Not wanting to back out of it, Benny takes on the burden that Joon gained through this poker game and, after some time, the trio gets along fairly well together.
Now that I’ve gotten the story out of the way, let me get into whether or not the movie is any good. In short, it’s okay. Like its main character, the film jumps around a lot, leaving me unsure of what it really is trying to accomplish. There are serious times, funny times, and flat out insane times. This can work, but in this case, it doesn’t really. It actually comes off as boring more than anything else, with nothing important ever really going on. As a matter of fact, Johnny Depp’s antics are really the main thing that the film has going for it.
Johnny Depp’s performance really stands out, despite the fact that out of the three main characters, he is actually the least used. As he often does, Depp steals the scenes he is in, often either being quite humorous, or performing acts that make your jaw drop. That’s not to say that the other actors were bad, but they certainly were not as prominent. Aidan Quinn the most believable out of the characters, however, playing the “normal person” type of character. He acquits himself nicely in the role, but he never really gets to do anything beyond what is expected of him. Mary Stuart Masterson plays her role quite well as well, but like her on-screen brother, isn’t as memorable as Johnny Depp’s character.
Despite the fact that the most memorable character is certainly Depp’s Sam, a lot of effort seemed to be put into characterizing Benny. He’s really the only character that gets any real development. It would appear there was a belief that making characters unpredictable was enough to relate them with the audience. The only reason this works for Sam is because of the fact that Depp really brings him to life. Joon ends up being quickly forgotten, even moments after watching the film. Apart from the fact that she has a mental illness, not much depth, development or insight into her character is given. This means that it is unlikely for you to care about her or the struggles that she is put through.
It is too boring, and the laughs are too few and far between, to make it all that enjoyable.
You can certainly see that attempts were made in getting you to relate with her character, She has her moments, from almost lighting fire to the house, to throwing a table tennis paddle through a vase of flowers, but these moments end up being spur of the moment, with nothing happening before or after to make you care. One moment, in particular, sets her off, sending her into a fit of anger, almost all of it directed at Benny. Yet, moments later, she becomes fine again. It is also in this moment, that I hoped some real drama would be injected into the film.
In this one scene, Joon lights fire to a picture of herself and Benny. She ends up putting this picture in the sink, believing that it will put itself out, having nothing flammable near it to continue burning. There is, however, a rag hanging down into the sink, which appears to be of just enough length to be caught in the fire. I honestly believed that this was foreshadowing a potentially touching scene, with Benny coming home, just in time to see his house engulfed in flames. Seeing as how this does not happen, it leaves me wondering why they put that rag there to begin with. Was it to give false hope or dread to people who noticed it? Was it just sloppy directing? I can’t say, but had the scene followed what it appeared to be foreshadowing, it probably would have ended up as a better product.
Benny & Joon ultimately isn’t really that good of a movie. Like I said earlier, it is okay, but it definitely could have been better. The fact of the matter is, it is too boring, and the laughs are too few and far between, to make it all that enjoyable. Johnny Depp’s character is certainly memorable enough, and while the other actors do their jobs just fine, they don’t really get all that much development. In fact, Benny actually gets the most characterization, but since he plays an easy character to relate to, Sam still stands out, just due to some of the wacky things that he gets to do. The film isn’t funny enough to be a good comedy and it doesn’t have enough development to be a good drama. It ends up just being pretty boring, and involves characters you don’t care about.
Conclusion: Benny & Joon is too dull to be considered a good movie.
Recommendation: Apart from a good Johnny Depp performance, there’s little reason to watch Benny & Joon.