Two New Yorkers are accused of murder in rural Alabama while on their way back to college, and one of their cousins--an inexperienced, loudmouth lawyer not accustomed to Southern rules and manners--comes in to defend them.
Bill Gambini and Stanley Rothenstein are two friends from New York University who just received scholarships to UCLA. They decide to drive through the South. Once they arrive in Alabama, they stop at a local convenience store to pick up a few snacks. But, no sooner than they leave the store, they are arrested. They had thought that they were arrested for shoplifting, but they were arrested for murder and robbery. Worse, they are facing execution for this crime. Bill and Stan do not have enough money for a lawyer, so the good news is that Bill has a lawyer in his family, his cousin, Vincent Laguardia Gambini. The bad news is that Vinny is an inexperienced lawyer who has not been at a trial. So, Vinny has to defend his clients and battle an uncompromising judge, some tough locals, and even his fiancée, Mona Lisa Vito, who just does not know when to shut up, to prove his clients' innocence. But he will soon realize that he is going to need help. Written by
Brooklyn lawyer Pesci tries to save the "two yutes" from frying in the electric chair. Classic!
"My Cousin Vinny," along with the megahit "Goodfellas," put Pesci on the map. Of course, he's been in the Scorcese's previous hit "Raging Bull," but didn't get a hell of a lot of recognition at the time. Joe Pesci's character of Vincent LaGuardia Gambini is a landmark character in comedy history. When his New Yauker street smarts collide with Southern hospitality--brilliant fish-out-of-water humor ensues!
Of course, Pesci should've be given all the credit. Marisa Tomei, who RIGHTFULLY won the Supporting Oscar for her excellent performance (please don't believe that urban myth about Jack Palance calling out the wrong name!!), is hilarious as Pesci's fiance with a foul mouth, a smart a**, the heaviest Brooklyn accent and an incredible expertise in automobiles. This was also the movie that made Marisa a star, and a performance I commend to this day.
What can I say? This movie has some of the most priceless bits of comedy. One, of course, involves Pesci's pronunciation of the word "youth" which sounds like "yute." One underrated bit is the one where Pesci first meets his cousin's friend (Mitchell Whitfield) in the jail cell. His cousin (Ralph Macchio) is asleep and Pesci suddenly pays the friend a visit. He doesn't know Pesci is the lawyer, and assumes he's some guy who...wants to make him his b**ch. The comic dialogue in that scene is so perfectly executed and I feel it's one of the funniest in the movie. I'm not going to give away any more of the film's slick, intelligent humor--You have to see it for yourself!!!
If you're in the mood for a smart, well-written, well-acted comedy that will have you on the floor--look no further! "My Cousin Vinny" doesn't disappoint in any of those aspects. This is a truly memorable piece of comedy, and though it was released in 1992, I'm sure comedy lovers will pay homage to this movie in the present day.
My score: 8 (out of 10)
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