*ing Joe Pesci, Ralph Machhio, Marisa Tomei, Fred Gwynne
My Cousin Vinny is hands down the funniest movie to have come out of the nineties. Rather, it is the funniest movie to have come out of anywhere!
None of the characters in this fish-out-of-water courtroom comedy are out to change the world. Bill and Stan are simply on their way back to college when mistakenly arrested. Believing the charges to be those of petty shoplifting and wondering what the fuss is all about, they casually roll out a confession. Only to find out that the charges are, in fact, not as mundane as shoplifting but those of manslaughter and robbery.
Facing the electric chair (as the law was in Alabama), desperate (and broke), Bill decides to bring in the ‘supposed’ experienced family lawyer Vincent ‘Vinny’ Gambini (played by the inimitable Joe Pesci). Vinny is no experienced attorney. Why, calling him an amateur would be a flattering compliment. Having just managed to clear the bar (after an unprecedented 6 attempts), Vinny has absolutely no courtroom experience. But he is available for free. Sensing an opportunity to gain some practical knowledge (and help a family member in the process), he drives down to good ol’ Southern Alabama along with his fiancée Mona Lisa Vito (the ravishing Marisa Tomei) to save the day. What follows is a series of hilarious courtroom proceedings as Vinny tries to fathom Southern law and also get some sleep.
Directed by Jonathan Lynn (of the YES MINISTER fame) My Cousin Vinny is a comic marvel. In an era where comedy, slapstick and Adam Sandler are used almost interchangeably, this is a breath of fresh air. What works for ‘My Cousin Vinny’ is great direction, screenplay, casting and most importantly stellar acting. Calling the acting brilliant would be an understatement, but such are the limitations of the English language.
Joe Pescei plays the quintessential oddball – dense, violent although remarkably astute. It’s rather unfortunate that he never got a change to do many such roles, for his comic presence is unquestionably first-rate. Marisa Tomei – in her Oscar winning role – goes all out to prove that her intelligence is higher than her heels, and comes through with flying colours. Lane Smith delivers a great performance as the effervescent DA Jim Trotter. But a special mention goes out to the unforgettable (late) Fred Gywnne who almost single-handedly steals the show with his portrayal of the laconic yet loquacious Judge Chamberlain.
All in all, My Cousin Vinny is one light-hearted courtroom comedy no-one should say ‘objection’ to.
Vinny Gambini: I object to this witness being called at this time. We’ve been given no prior notice he would testify. No discovery of any tests he’s conducted or reports he’s prepared. And as the court is aware, the defense is entitled to advance notice of all witness who will testify, particularly those who will give scientific evidence, so that we can properly prepare for cross-examination, as well as give the defense an opportunity to have his reports reviewed by a defense expert, who might then be in a position to contradict the veracity of his conclusions.
Judge Chamberlain Haller: Mr. Gambini?
Vinny Gambini: Yes, sir?
Judge Chamberlain Haller: That is a lucid, intelligent, well thought-out objection.
Vinny Gambini: Thank you, sir.
Judge Chamberlain Haller: Overruled.