My Cousin Vinny
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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for My Cousin Vinny can be found here.

When college students Bill Gambini (Ralph Macchio) and Stan Rothenstein (Mitchell Whitfield) are arrested in Wazoo, Alabama and charged with shooting a convenience store clerk, Bill's cousin, lawyer Vincent "Vinny" Gambini (Joe Pesci), drives down from New York to defend them. Aided by his motormouth girlfriend Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei), Vinny, who tried six times to pass the bar exam, comes up against no-nonsense Judge Chamberlain Haller (Fred Gwynne) and meets his match in a bowl of grits.

My Cousin Vinny was based on a script by producer/screenwriter Dale Launer.

Bill and Stan were on their way to California to attend UCLA. It was January, so they decided to take their convertible by the southern route through Alabama where the scenery would be nicer rather than brave the winter weather in the Midwest and Rocky Mountains.

Because Judge Haller had confronted him about the fact that there is no record of any Vincent Gambini trying any cases in the entire state of New York as Vinny had claimed to him earlier. Vinny lied to Judge Haller at the outset of the trial because he knew that if he told Haller the truth that he has no courtroom trial experience, Haller would not allow him to be Bill and Stan's lawyer. So, the quick-thinking Vinny comes up with an on-the-spot story that he started out his career as an actor, but there was already a famous actor in New York with his name, so he legally changed his name to Jerry Gallo, and that's the name under which he practices law.

This question is frequently asked by viewers who become confused by a later scene in which Bill is telling Stan how Vinny nailed the magician at Cousin Ruth's wedding. Bill asks Stan, "Do you know who I'm talking about?" and Stan replies, "That magician with the ponytail?" Some viewers think that Bill and Stan are referring to Vinny. The actual reference is to the magician, Alakazam. Stan recognizes Alakazam, probably from his publicity, but Stan was not at Ruth's wedding and had never met Vinny before.

Joe Pesci actually learned the card trick. It's a fairly simple slight-of-hand trick. He has two cards in his hand, one card over the other. Bill can see that the card is a black-and-white joker. As he talks, Vinny waves the cards around a lot to keep Bill's attention diverted. At the point where he says "HIS WHOLE CASE," his hand dips down close to the table, and he lets the top card fall into his lap. The next time he shows Bill the card, presto, it's a colored joker. It's called the double lift and is literally one of the first tricks an aspiring magician will learn as it's required in quite a few card tricks. You appear to be taking the top card from the deck but, in fact, you take the top two. It takes a bit of practice and a fairly pristine set of cards. In this case the deck, was probably brand new. However, a keen eye will notice that, when Vinny turns the cards, you can see that a tiny gap is visible at the the top part between the two.

Stan's parents are mentioned to be hippies and they live in isolation somewhere in the Andes mountains of Chile and couldn't be reached. Bill's mother (also never seen on camera) is a widow living in Brooklyn, New York, but Bill comments about his mother being in poor health and unable to travel during the scene when he and Stan are playing basketball on the prison grounds. She did, however, recommend Vinny as their lawyer over the phone when Bill calls her after his arrest. Director Jonathan Lynn has said there were a few scenes shot which explained that Bill's mother had a recent heart attack months earlier and he kept in touch with her throughout the trial by calling her over a prison payphone every day. These scenes were cut for timing.

Norton is an apparent felon on the prison's Death Row who is facing execution in the electric chair. His presence in the movie is to remind the viewer that Bill and Stan are also facing execution if Vinny doesn't come through for them. He uses the word quintessential facetiously. The 'quintessential' anything is something that most encapsulates a particular trait whether good or bad. Bill uses the term enthusiastically but as the lights dip indicating the execution of Norton, Stan uses it negatively to bring him back to reality.

Not from the southern United States, are you? Grits are a type of porridge, similar to polenta, made from coarsely ground hominy corn. The corn kernels can be hulled, producing white grits (as in the movie) or left unhulled, producing yellow grits. Learn more about grits here.

That wasn't a photo of the getaway car. It was a photo of Bill and Stan's car. When all three witnesses claimed to see a green convertible with a white top tooling out of the parking lot, the officials put up the top on Bill and Stan's car in order to photograph it as described by the witnesses. Only the viewers knew that the top was down when Bill and Stan were at the store. At this point in time, no one suspects that there were two cars involved.

Just after Vinny tells Haller that his legal name is Jerry Gallo, he says that Haller can still call him Gambini.

Technically, Vinny didn't disprove or discredit them, but he did cast doubts about their testimony in the eyes of the jury. The first witness, Sam Tipton (Maury Chaykin), actually saw Bill and Stan drive into the Sac-O-Suds parking lot before he started cooking his breakfast grits. After hearing the gunshot, he also saw the real killers leave the store when he looked out his kitchen window again after cooking his grits. Vinny was able to show that 20 minutes had passed between those two events, not the five minutes that Tipton claimed, thus opening the door to the idea that there may have been two cars involved. The testimony of elderly Mrs Riley (Paulene Myers) was suspect because she could not identify how many fingers Vinny was holding up at half the distance she had been from the getaway car. Ernie Crane (Raynor Scheine) was made to question his own identification of the two men in a green convertible when he was forced to realize that he had made it looking through a dirty window, crud covered screen, a bunch of leaf-covered trees, and seven bushes.

When Special Automotive Instructor for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) George Wilbur (James Rebhorn) provides testimony for the prosecution that the tire tread on the yoots' car was identical to the tread marks on the pavement and that the chemical composition of the tire residue was identical, Vinny then looks at the photos of the tire treads taken by his fiance Lisa (Marisa Tomei) and lights begin to go off in his head.

At one point Vinny explains to Lisa that the reason he has no court experience is because "between your father's garage and working nights, when was I supposed to go?" Apparently, Vinny put his way through law school by working at Lisa's father's garage and thus has considerable working knowledge of cars, at least enough to remember that both the '63 Pontiac Tempest and the '64 Buick Skylark had similar bodies, used the same-sized tires, and were available in the same paint colors, but had different suspension set-ups, and to realize that the yoots' car, not having positraction, could not have made the tire tracks left behind by the getaway car.

Other than the fact that Lisa is angry as a hornet and would love to get in a jab at him, Vinny is apparently using Lisa's natural tendency to argue in order to get her to reveal the evidence that he knows will win his case. All along, Vinny had been building his case on the possibility that there were two Buick Skylarks. Suddenly he realizes that isn't the case at all. However, he doesn't want to make it look like he is leading the witness, so he must get her to come up with the answer herself. He gets Lisa on the stand and allows her to tell the world that, in her expert opinion, Vincent LaGuardia Gambini is wrong. There weren't two '64 Buick Skylarks as he had theorized. It was a totally different car, as shown by her own photographic evidence. For Vinny, it was the coup that allows him to win his case. For Lisa, it was the coup that allows her to win an argument with Vinny as well as to finally be of help to him. Case dismissed and love-argue relationship salvaged!

He tossed her a big hint. He wanted her to focus on the hydraulic system of the car. "Hydro" refers to water, so he asks her: "Does the defense's case hold WATER?" Get it?

Vinny does not reveal that Lisa is his girlfriend, thus sidestepping a potential conflict of interest. The fact that she seems to be angry with him would head off any chance of her lying on his behalf. The inclusion of George Wilber's testimony was legally questionable. The results that Wilbur gives could not be turned around in just a few days time, so the prosecutor must have been seeking his forensic evidence for some time--long enough that he should have disclosed it to Vinny. Vinny tries to get the evidence excluded for this very reason, but is denied. Having read up on disclosure law, Vinny would also know that, having admitted Wilbur's testimony, the judge would be required by law to allow a rebuttal witness. This is why Vinny is so quick to point out (when the prosecutor objects) that she is there to rebut Wilbur's testimony. An appeals court might not grant an appeal on the inclusion of Wilbur's testimony alone, but they would certainly grant an appeal if the defense was refused a rebuttal witness. Being a stickler for procedure, the judge allowed her to testify.

The prosecution brings in a surprise witness in the form of Special Automotive Instructor for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) George Wilbur (James Rebhorn) who testifies that the tire tread on the yoots' '64 Buick Skylark convertible was identical to the tread marks on the pavement and that the chemical composition of the tire residue was also identical. Vinny then looks at the photos of the tire treads taken by Lisa and lights begin to go off in his head. He calls Lisa to the stand and, after getting her recognized as someone who knows everything about cars, she points out that the tire tracks could only have been made by a car with posi-traction, which was not an option on the boys' car. It did, however, come on the '63 Pontiac Tempest, which looked identical to the '64 Buick Skylark and even came in the same metallic mint green color. Sheriff Farley (Bruce McGill) confirms that two boys fitting the description of Bill and Stan were picked up in Jasper County driving a stolen '63 metallic mint green Pontiac Tempest convertible, and they were packing a .357 magnum, the same caliber as the gun used to kill the store clerk. Consequently, the case is closed, and the yoots are released. As Vinny and Lisa head out to their car, Judge Haller calls Vinny back to assure him that he's 'one helluva trial lawyer'. Finally in their car and on the road out of Alabama, Lisa informs Vinny that she got his old mentor, Judge Malloy, to back up his distinguished career as Jerry Callo. In the final scene, Vinny reminds Lisa that he promised to marry her when he won his first case, and Lisa begins motormouthing about her wedding plans.

There is no answer to that question, at least not one that can be found in the movie. Some viewers see it as a plot hole. Others think it could have been a scene that landed on the cutting floor. We know only that, when Vinny first tells Lisa that he used the name Jerry Gallo and she reminds him that Jerry Gallo is dead, they had plenty of time over the next three days to discuss a back-up plan in case Judge Haller found out about Gallo (which he did on the third day). Perhaps changing to Callo was one of the things Vinny and Lisa discussed during that time. We also see Lisa making a phone call just before her testimony, which some viewers assume is when she contacted Judge Malloy, who might have told her at that time that an inquiry had just been made regarding one Jerry Callo. Unfortunately, these are just possibilities that cannot be verified in the movie itself.

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