Director: Jonathan Lynn
Writer: Dale Launer
Stars: Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, Ralph Macchio, Mitchell Whitfield, Fred Gwynne
My Cousin Vinny has to be up there with the all time great comedy movies ever made. It’s certainly in my top 5 comedy films and it still holds up 26 years on. When Two New Yorkers Bill Gambini (Macchio) and Stan Rothenstein (Whitfield) are accused of murder in rural Alabama while on their way back to college, Bill calls on his cousin Vinny (Pesci) who is an inexperienced, loudmouth and wisecracking lawyer not accustomed to the southern rules and manners to defend them. Joe Pesci as Vinny was hilarious. I knew he had a mean humour about him having seen him in firstly Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) and a year later in Home Alone (1990) Both roles are memorable and more noticeably in Home Alone he plays a cardboard cartoon type villain which was more goofy than wisecracking. Pesci as a serious actor can never be taken for granted and has played some of the most memorable roles in classics such as Raging Bull, Goodfellas A Bronx Tale and of course Casino.
I admit I wasn’t sure if I could handle a full length comedy film with Joe Pesci as the lead at the time as I wasn’t used to seeing him in these roles at the forth front. In fact I knew Ralph Macchio was going to be in this film and at the time I was interested to see his role, not knowing that it is very minimum and rightly so. I had never heard of Marisa Tomei at this point in my life. So I think it was fair to say that it wasn’t a film I was eager to see. Who introduced me to the film? My Granny. Yes my Granny Molly had a wicked sense of humour. She also loved watching Bruce Lee films and was not your standard Grandmother. She also introduced me to Michael Myers of the Halloween fame and I to this day still haunts me. Thanks Gran!! My Granny Molly insisted that I watched this at around the time I was about 17 or 18 a year or so after the films release. Her comedic taste was impeccable I must admit. I have never laughed so much in a film set in Alabama in a Court Room.
There is definitely cultural and social differences in the natives and our Gambini family. Vinny is unorthodox in is methods of law and his mannerisms that show within the courtroom in the way he speaks, the way he dresses, in fact everything that Vinny does is condemned by Judge Chamberlain Haller played by the late great Fred Gwynne who I was always associate as Herman Munster from the classic TV series “The Munsters”. Gwynne’s disgust and unimpressed facial expressions are a joy to behold and will have you laughing so much as Vinny seeks his approval throughout the early parts of the movie until he realises that nothing is going to sway the stubborn Judge. From the “Two Yoots” scene (The misunderstanding between Vincent Gambini and Judge Haller regarding the two “utes” was in fact a real conversation between Joe Pesci and Jonathan Lynn.) to wearing that ridicules three piece suit will have you in tears and are certainly the most memorable parts of the film.
Vinny’s relationship with Mona Lisa Vito played by Marisa Tomei is also brilliant. Mona Lisa is a match in every way for Vinny and knows exactly how to handle him. Some of their scenes are really terrific you would think they were a real life married couple. It’s astonishing to think that the age gap between both actors was 21 years (not that should matter) but Tomei was 28 when she did this film and her performance in this movie makes you forget the age gap. Yes its evident that Pesci is wearing a wig and it’s also noticeable that he has pins behind his ears holding his face in more northern direction to bridge the age gap physically. Marisa Tomei’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar win was this film’s only Oscar nomination.
One notable mention must go to the brilliant Austin Pendleton as lawyer John Gibbons. Gibbons is Rothenstein’s first choice attorney after being unimpressed with Vinny early on in the film. Gibbons appears as an educated, mild mannered, respectable lawyer who is very composed. What’s not to like? That is of course until he must stand in court to present the case to the Jury. This is where Pendleton shines as the nervous, sweating and more noticable stuttering wreck. If you look closely you can see a few of the cast having to look away or cover their faces with their hands trying not to break out of character. Who could blame them? The scene is one of the funniest moments in the film and Austin Pendleton will always be remembered for his magical and hysterical 3 minutes.
Overall My Cousin Vinny, is a classic comedy film that has out performed its initial expectations in my book. Pesci is hilarious as Vinny, Macchio in his limited screen time has one or two funny lines and actually plays a convincing cousin to Joe Pesci. Tomei manages to surprise everyone with her performance from nowhere and I still regard this as one of my favourite roles she has played. Fred Gwynne in his final feature film would be proud to know that his role in this film is now a classic role and will live on in this movie for years to come. The relationships and interactions between the main cast and supporting cast works well here as I previously mentioned that there are cultural differences intentionally inserted into the plot and it works perfectly. The film is almost 30 years old now and I would be very surprised if anyone has never heard of this film. It still holds up well today and has that rewatchabilty element to it and I recommend giving this film a watch.