Plot: What’s it about?
Joon (Mary Stuart Masterson) is a sweet young woman…most of the time. She can be kind and gentle at times, but when no one is looking, she likes to start fires and watch them burn. Her older brother Benny (Aidan Quinn) has taken care of her since their parents died, but now he knows he needs much more support to keep her under control. Soon, the two lose a wager in a poker game and as a result, Benny has to allow Sam (Johnny Depp) to move in, as if Joon wasn’t enough by herself. Whereas Joon likes to start fires and cause scenes, Sam is more subtle, but he likes to pattern himself after Buster Keaton, which is odd in and of itself. After all the hassles and such, Benny has decided to place Joon into a group home, which bothers him, but he thinks it will be for the best. But when Joon and Sam start to develop a relationship and perhaps even a romance, Benny starts to rethink his entire stance on Joon and her antics, as well as his relationship with her.
I like romantic comedies, I admit it. I don’t like them all, but I am a sucker for most of them and this is one of my personal favorites. I haven’t always liked this movie though, but as time passed and I watched it more, it began to get on my good side. And in truth, with each new time I watch Benny & Joon, I seem to like it more and more. All the usual romantic comedy elements are present and all, but this movie seems a little more off the beaten path, perhaps due to the unusual characters. Joon is not the typical romantic female, as she is sweet and kind, but she has a flip side and that can involve arson at times. And across from her is Sam, another offbeat persona that has a lot of charm and sweetness. These characters are more fun to watch than most found in the genre, so perhaps that is why I like this movie so much. So take those two characters, add in a wealth of gifted supporting players, and a wonderful storyline and there you have it, the terrific romantic comedy, Benny & Joon. And when MGM issues a superb overall disc like this, I can’t help but recommend it, hook, line, and sinker. This disc proves that MGM can do excellent work when they want to, so let’s hope to see more like this one soon.
As I mentioned above, I love the two leads here, but even good characters like these can falter without talented workers to bring them to life. And here, we have Johnny Depp and Mary Stuart Masterson, both of whom seem born to play these roles. I am not usually a big fan of Depp’s work, but he impresses me here and I wish he’d take more roles like this. Now I realize Depp is a talented man, but I don’t like his choice in roles, so that lowers his overall value in my eyes. But when he gets his mitts on the right characters, he can be excellent and this movie more than proves that. Other films that showcase Depp’s talents include Donnie Brasco, The Ninth Gate, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, Cry-Baby, and Edward Scissorhands. Masterson (Some Kind of Wonderful, At Close Range) also consumes her role well, which allows for some terrific tandem work with Depp. The cast here also includes William H. Macy (Fargo, Boogie Nights), Dan Hedaya (Clueless, Dick), Oliver Platt (Ready To Rumble, Lake Placid), Julianne Moore (Magnolia, The Big Lebowski), CCH Pounder (Ends of Days, Face/Off), and Aidan Quinn (The Lemon Sisters, Practical Magic).
Video: How does it look?
Benny & Joon is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. We don’t always see new anamorphic transfers from MGM, but I was very pleased to find one had been included on this disc. And this is a good one too, aside from some edge enhancement, I could find no negative points to discuss. The print looks clean and shows no real signs of age, which allows the image to be sharp and look almost like new. The colors have a bright tone to them, with no traces of errors and flesh tones come off as natural as well. I found no trouble with the contrast either, very stark and well balanced at all times, no detail loss in the least. I love it when MGM does a transfer like this, perhaps we’ll see some more like this one soon, at least I hope we do.
Audio: How does it sound?
I wasn’t let down at all by the included stereo surround track, which handled the material’s audio needs very well. I doubt this movie would benefit much from a full 5.1 remix, so I am glad MGM stuck with the original track and think more studios should do the same. This is a romantic comedy and it has the usual genre audio, a musical soundtrack that uses some range and the rest is dialogue driven. The music blends with the movie very well and sounds good here, while the dialogue shows no problems either, no real complaints. This disc also includes a French stereo surround track, Spanish mono track, English captions, and subtitles in English & Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc seems to have all the goodies from the laserdisc release, which is just fine by me. I know some people complain about porting over the laserdisc stuff, but as long as a new transfer is created and all the supplements are brought over, I have no problems with that approach. You’ll find a couple of deleted scenes, a nineteen minute reel of costume/makeup/stunt tests, a music video (The Proclaimers), and the film’s theatrical trailer. The main supplement here however, is an audio commentary track with director Jeremiah Cechik. This isn’t the most exciting or informative commentary track, but if you like the movie, then it is well worth a spin to learn a little more about the production. All in all, a very nice selection of bonus materials, very cool indeed.