22 May 2010
Review: "My Cousin Vinny"
.My Cousin Vinny is a 1992 comedy that film starred Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei and Ralph Macchio (best known for The Karate Kid in 1984). It may be best remembered for the post-Academy Awards controversy in 1993. Marisa Tomei was nominated, and won the award, for Best Supporting Actress and for nearly two decades there has been speculation that Jack Palance, the presenter, was unable to read the right name or too drunk to read the name and that Marisa Tomei was the easiest name for him to read. The other nominees were Miranda Richardson (Damage), Joan Plowright (Enchanted April), Vanessa Redgrave (Howard's End) and Judy Davis (Husbands and Wives). I have only seen Judy Davis' performance in Woody Allen's film, which was marvelous, but Marisa Tomei was wonderful in My Cousin Vinny and was the best part of the film. The film was directed by Jonathan Lynn, a British director whose screen credits include Clue (1985), Sgt. Bilko (1996) and The Whole Ten Yards (2000). I have mostly seen Joe Pesci in dramatic roles where he is prone to violence, such as Goodfellas (1990) and Casino (1995). It was fun to watch him in a comedic role and he did a decent job. The success of the film should belong to Marisa Tomei, who made My Cousin Vinny an enjoyable adventure, but her standout performance overshadowed the rest of the unremarkable film.
Bill Gambini (Ralph Macchio) and his friend Stan Rothenstein (Mitchell Witfield) are both college students from New York that are on their way to visit UCLA. They took the opportunity to drive and find themselves in rural Alabama. They stop at a small convenience store and purchase a few groceries. Later, while on the road, the boys realize they forgot to pay for a can of tuna. They are soon pulled over by a police cruiser and, nervous about the different laws in the state of Alabama, they assume they are being arrested for shoplifting. It turns out that the clerk at the convenience store was murdered shortly after they left the store and witnesses have led the police to believe Bill and Stan are guilty. Not knowing what to do, Bill calls his mother who tells him that his cousin Vinny is a lawyer and will defend him. Vincent LaGuardia Gambini (Jos Pesci) is relatively new to the legal profession and has never tried a case in court. He has traveled to ALabama with his fiancée Mona Lisa (Marisa Tomei). He convinces the judge, Chamberlain Haller (Fred Gwynne), that he has enough experience to take the case. Vinny's unorthodox approach conflicts with the judge, and Vinny finds himself thrown in jail for contempt of court. The procescutor, District Attorney Jim Trotter III (Lane Smith), believes that Vinny is too incompetent to win the case. Vinny struggles with his new surroundings and his lack of trial experience which eventually put the boys' future and his relationship with Mona Lisa in jeopardy.
My Cousin Vinny is a very funny film, but after seeing the film I can barely remember any of the jokes. The jokes are not always the most original but the cast does a great job of making the screenplay work. Marisa Tomei is fantastic as Mona Lisa, especially during a courtroom scene late in the film. She and Joe Pesci have created two characters whose unique and quirky relationship is believable and after the film ended I wanted to follow them further. Special mention should be given to whoever was responsible for styling Mona Lisa, the hair and the wardrobe were amazing! The one drawback of the film is that the audience is given little reason to empathize with Bill and Stan. Are we not supposed to care whether or not the boys are acquitted, or should we forget about them once cousin Vinny arrives? I was 8 years old when My Cousin Vinny was released and I have only seen it for the first time now. For eighteen years I have only heard about Marisa Tomei's Oscar win. She may have deserved the award, but My Cousin Vinny is not a film that should be included as one of the decade's best.
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.