Benny & Joon

A romantic and whimsically poetic treatment of mental illness, apparently designed for teenagers and young adults, that tries very hard to be both offbeat and sincere but succeeds only intermittently (1993). Scripted by circus clown Barry Berman in collaboration with Leslie McNeil and unevenly directed by Jeremiah Chechik, it pairs Johnny Depp as Sam, an eccentric and illiterate mime, with Mary Stuart Masterson as the disturbed and artistic Joon, whose auto mechanic brother Benny (Aidan Quinn) takes devoted care of her. The necessity for this close monitoring is never spelled out to my satisfaction, and Samwho spends most of his time offering terrible imitations of all-too-familiar Chaplin and Keaton routines as if these were the very stuff of lifeis allowed to run loose. But an overall vagueness about the characters seems necessary to keep the movie in motion. With Julianne Moore, Oliver Platt, and Dan Hedaya. PG, 98 min. (JR)

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