Time: 119 Minutes
Joe Pesci as Vinny Gambini
Ralph Macchio as Bill Gambini
Marisa Tomei as Mona Lisa Vito
Mitchell Whitfield as Stan Rothenstein
Fred Gwynne as Judge Chamberlain Haller
Director: Jonathan Lynn
Vinny, an inexperienced lawyer, steps in to defend his cousin Billy and his friend Stan in his first ever trial after they are accused of murdering a convenience store owner.
I heard about My Cousin Vinny for some time, from what I knew about it, it’s a comedy involving law and has Joe Pesci in the lead role. I become much more interested in checking it out after watching and loving Clue and learning that director Jonathan Lynn also made this film. I didn’t know what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised.
One thing that I will admit is that the first act is a little clunky. Even within this movie, some of the characters are a little too stupid even for this movie. The humour was also hit or miss, especially with the instances of characters misunderstanding another people (this happens at least twice). Its also more than a bit frustrating to see Vinny (Joe Pesci) fail as a lawyer on a rather cartoonish level. However, at around the halfway point, Vinny suddenly becomes good at being a lawyer, and that’s when it really picks up. This change is very abrupt and sudden but that aside, if you find the movie hard to get through in the first half, just hold out until you get to that point. Overall, it is a very funny movie; while some of the early act jokes are pretty hit or miss, the rest of the jokes land. There are nice little gags throughout which occur plenty of times and actually have a payoff. There are even little details or moments that actually have relevance to the plot later on, like the preparation of grits and Marisa Tomei’s knowledge of automobiles. As for the plot itself, the premise is a bit convenient and the plot doesn’t matter as much, it definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously. Nonetheless it is well crafted, and the trial is decent. One of the things I heard going into this movie is that according to many lawyers, this is one of the more accurate representations of the law. It’s has a funny but also smart and clever script which has an accurate portrayal of courtroom procedure, while having fun with the situations.
This movie wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without its cast. The characters are larger than life and some of the conversations and exchanges are ridiculous, but they play it so straight that it works and is funnier. Joe Pesci is great and funny as Vinny, the inexperienced lawyer who has to defend his cousin and his friend from death row. It plays to Pesci’s strengths, while also being against type. Marisa Tomei was a scene stealer as Vinny’s girlfriend, and she plays her role perfectly. She particularly gets a monologue towards the end of the movie which was the standout scene from the movie. She also received an Oscar win for this, and it was well deserved. Pesci and Tomei are a great on-screen duo, their chemistry is great, and they play off each other very well, funny yet believable. The supporting cast are all good, including Fred Gwynne, Bruce McGill, Austin Pendleton and more. If there are any weak links, I’d say that Ralph Macchio and Mitchell Whitfield as the accused are rather boring in comparison to everyone else. However, that sort of works in favour of the movie since there’s already so many strong and memorable characters.
My Cousin Vinny may struggle a little in the first half (particularly in the first act), but it picks up and makes for a thoroughly enjoyable movie. A smart and funny courtroom comedy, well written and helped by its memorable cast and characters, with Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei being the standouts. Definitely worth watching.