The Movie Pool walks 500 miles to check out the brand new Blu-ray release of the 1990s classic Benny and Joon!
ASPECT RATIO: 1.85:1 enhanced for widescreen televisions
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUDIO: English 2.0 Surround DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Mono, French Dolby Surround
SUBTITLES: English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
AUDIO COMMENTARY: By director Jeremiah Chechik
SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted Scenes, Behind the Scenes (Costume, Lighting) Test Reel, The Proclaimers music video, Trailer
Joon (Mary Stuart Masterson), a girl with psychological issues, longs to live free of the protective watch of her brother Benny (Aidan Quinn). When a strange young man moves into town (Johnny Depp), he changes Benny and Joon's lives more than they could have imagined.
Director: Jeremiah Chechik
Screenplay: Barry Berman
It's hard to believe that Benny and Joon is almost 20 years old. Even after all this time, the film holds up; the quirky comedy is still a charming film with a lot of heart. Quinn, Masterson, and Depp all give outstanding performances, and they are aided by a strong supporting cast, including Oliver Platt and Julianne Moore in one of her early roles.
With so many skilled actors aboard, and working from a earnest script by Barry Berman, the characters and the story have an authentic feel, even when they shouldn't. Sam (Depp) lives his life like he's Buster Keaton, and as everyone around him gets sucked in to Sam and Joon's relationship, it all just works. Depp shows the charisma and comedic timing that has since made him an A-list star, although he is not the main focus of this film.
I had never seen Benny and Joon before getting the Blu-ray to review, and in all honesty, I always dismissed it as a romantic chick flick. I am not afraid to admit I was wrong; while it is about finding love, it has a lot more substance than so many of today's disposable rom-coms. It's a great little movie worth discovering.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The high definition video transfer is excellent, especially for a film of this age. On the 46 inch Samsung HDTV I viewed the film on, the image was sharp and the colors deep and true. According to the director commentary, the movie was filmed in Washington state, and the green scenery looks outstanding in the cinematography. There's a lot of color in this film, and it is served well by high definition. At times, the image can appear soft, but according to the cinematographer (who narrates the makeup and lighting test in the special features) that was due to the deliberate use of a filter to give it a "fairy tale" look.
The sound mix is 2.0 Surrround DTS, and while it isn't the full multi-channel mix we usually get from new releases, it is fine for this movie. This is a very talky movie, and the mix plays to that. Even use of the song "500 Miles" by The Proclaimers (made famous by the film) sounds decent but not dynamic. In this case, I really don't mind a 2.0 mix, because dialogue is clear and easy to hear.
The special features include an audio commentary by director Jeremiah Chechik, who details his approach to the film. Honestly, Chechik is not the most dynamic person, and while he does have some interesting insight, the commentary overall is not that riveting.
The other extras include deleted scenes and a trailer, which are fine, and the music video for The Proclaimers' "500 Miles," which is still catchy after all these years. The most interesting extra is a test reel for lighting, make-up, and costumes. Director of photography John Schwartzman narrates, and describes some of the different techniques they used to try and give the film the right look. It's a great look behind the scenes into the process, especially for young filmmakers.
BUY IT, REDBOX IT, OR NETFLIX IT?
OVERALL GRADE: B+
This is a charming, endearing film worth some repeat viewings for fans of light comedy. Johnny Deep fans will also jump to own it, but for everyone else, it's an absolute rent, so grab it at a video store or put it in your Netflix queue. You'll be glad you did.
Benny and Joon is now available on Blu-ray from Fox Home Entertainment.