My Cousin Vinny

Cousin Vinny“My biological clock is ticking like this!” “Is it possible, the two yutes… The two whahhh…did you say yutes? Yeah, two yutes–excuse me, your honor, two youTHz.” Some of the funniest movie quotes of all time come from this timeless classic. Instead of watching what was playing in the theatre this week, I decided to review another Throwback Thursday film. Every time I watch this movie, I laugh throughout the entire story. It’s one of those films that–if you’re having a bad day–you can watch it and be elated by laughter. Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei, along with The Munsters’ Fred Gwynne provide the movie with an incomparable cast of talent that play off of each other so incredibly well. From the domestic antics and witty dialog between Tomei’s Lisa and Pesci’s Vinny to the hilarious courtroom drama between Gwynne’s Judge Haller and Vinny, the comedic writing in this movie is brilliant and memorable.

My Cousin Vinny is about two young men (Ralph Macchio and Mitchell Whitfield) who are traveling from New York City to Los Angeles to attend UCLA. Along the way, they are pulled over by a cop in a backwater Alabama town; and, after various conversations with police, they realize they are being booked on murder charges. Billy (Macchio) calls his mother who mentions that his cousin Vinny Gambini (Pesci) is an attorney. Unbeknownst to Billy and his friend Stan (Whitfield), Vinny is a personal injury attorney who has never won a case. Accompanying Vinny on this trip down south is the flashy fashionable Mona Lisa Vito (Tomei), also his finance. From the moment Vinny steps into the courtroom, he realizes that the Judge has it in for him and the town is stacked against the two NYC-Italian youths charged with the homicide of a store clerk. It’s up to Vinny and Lisa to work through the clues and conduct their own investigation to clear the names of Billy and Stan. Watch as hilarity ensues during this unconventional courtroom drama.

This is one of those movies that is so incredibly easy to recommend to friends who enjoy smart comedies that don’t shy away from creating witty and humorous antics while stereotyping characters. From Lisa’s opening remark, “I bet the Chinese food in this town is terrible” to the “dumb” southerner’s obsession with grits, it is plain to see that this film will pull out all the stops to generate laughter. The degree to which one can enthusiastically recommend this movie becomes even clearer when Vinny reveals to his cousin that he only passed the bar six weeks prior (umm, after six attempts before). Not only is this Vinny’s first trip down south, it is also his first time in a courtroom in front of a judge and jury. The characters Lisa and Vinny are the anthesis of one another, but I feel that is what helps to create their compatibility. This is evident in Vinny’s constant pre-occupation with trying to gather his wits about him and Lisa’s loudly articulated common sense and a penchant for reading law books. They complement each other very well.

Structurally, the movie does take a little while to really get going. But that is typically the case with past and present films in the same genre. But once Lisa steps out of the car in her overstated flashy clothes and Vinny’s leather books strike the red Alabama mud, the pace quickly picks up. I think what makes this movie so timeless is the fact that it is so incredibly well produced. During its time, it was probably the most inventive and smart American film farce, and thus took audiences by surprise. It certainly helped to further develop the careers of two outstanding performers (Tomei and Pesci) and also highlighted the beloved Munsters actor and children’s author Fred Gwynne.


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