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Thursday, 20 October 2016

Retro Review: My Cousin Vinny (1992)

My Cousin Vinny
Cast: Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, Ralph Macchio, Lane Smith 
Genre: Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $64,088,552

Plot:  New York lawyer Vinny has never won a case. When his teenage cousin, Bill and his friend Stan are accused of murder in a backwater Alabama town, it's up to nervous Vinny to save him from jail - even though he's only ever tried personal injury cases before, and none of them successfully 

'One Of The Best Courtroom Comedies In This North Meets South Culture Clash'

My Cousin Vinny tells the story of two young men, who after stealing a can of tuna, find themselves wrongly accused of murder out in Alabama. With the whole townsfolk against them, one of those men turns to his cousin Vinny, who is supposedly an experienced attorney to help them in their case. But Vinny is far from perfect; still, that doesn't deter him in his efforts to prevent the men from spending the rest of their lives in jail. 

Joe Pesci is a lot more tolerable here and for once, he has the starring role as one of New York's finest, Vincent Gambini. His humour in this movie is endearing, as opposed to sort of annoying by being a sidekick in Lethal Weapon and it makes a change from playing a mini evil psycho in Goodfellas and Casino. He goes to show that with his demeanour and showcasing his fun side he can do comedy and can be a funny and amusing guy, and I don't include movies like Home Alone. Even though the humour in that film is slapstick in tone. 

Whereas Marisa Tomei rightfully deserved that best-supporting actress Oscar win, as she turns in a show-stopping performance amongst the boys in this movie. She has some funny lines; as Mona, she is smart, beautiful, brash and even shows up the lawyer, whilst sitting in the witness stand by demonstrating her knowledge of car mechanics. I actually liked her Brooklyn accent, which isn't grating. Her character wants to help Vinny out, but Vinny stubbornly refuses and does it by himself and at first, things don't go so well. He finds himself in contempt of court for dressing inappropriately and gets thrown in jail - not once but twice! The judge does all he can to derail and discredit Vinny, and yet Vinny manages to be one step ahead of him. 

Both Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei are perfectly cast as the unconventional couple. Tomei has never been better and right after this film, she has never had a role as good as this, whilst Pesci ought to have landed more comedy roles in his career. But everyone put in great performances, which were convincing to boot.

There are a few amusing gags, like the theme whistle going off at night whilst Vinny and Lisa are asleep and when Vinny has to push the car when it is stuck in the mud but slips, lands on his back in a lot of it. This is a light-hearted comedy that shows the differences between the two cultures: as represented by Vinny and Mona Lisa of the East Coast and the rest of the South. As well as this, it also shows how you mustn't judge a book by its cover: at first, quintessential Vinny is the most unlikely person you'd expect to be a lawyer.... but over time, he reads up on his knowledge of the law and the legal side of things and makes his points clear and concise, without relying on technical legal jargon. Here, the way he explains things in court, for people who aren't trained in law, as funny and amusing it looks, this would be exactly how it would be played out, had I done the same thing. 

The film is more of an observational comedy and relies less on slapstick in this David vs Goliath legal showdown as Vinny and his girlfriend, Mona Lisa Vito helps to get their Cousin and his friend off the hook. Though the product outline on the cover makes it sound as if this is a laugh-out-loud comedy, it sort of comes across as being a dramedy of sorts. The comedy comes in several scenes that build up as the movie continues.  

The swearing didn't bother me; it's still a really good film, regardless of the profanity. The story whilst original and unique could have made for a courtroom drama; but by throwing in a few laughs, some slapstick, amusing dialogue and one-liners, My Cousin Vinny makes for a fantastic legal-based comedy. 

Final Verdict:

This is a grossly underrated & well-crafted comedy that has terrific performances from the cast, that doesn't descend into stereotypes and caricatures. It is also one of those legal films where it doesn't become too deep or entrenched for general viewers to understand and for one to even know a lot about the law. Joe Pesci is awesome as Vinny, whilst Marisa Tomei gives one of the best ever supporting actresses movie performances, ever as Mona Lisa Vito. 

Running at almost 2 hours long, there may be errors and issues in regards to how the legal procedures are depicted; nevertheless, this doesn't detract from the actual plot and what is an entertaining and amusing romp as a movie. 

Witty and amusing throughout, My Cousin Vinny has it all from start to finish. 


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