My Cousin Vinny
Directed by Jonathan Lynn. Starring Joe Pesci, Ralph Macchio, Mitchell Whitfield, Marisa Tomei, Fred Gwynne. (1992)
REVIEWED By Kathleen Maher, Fri., March 13, 1992
In no way as bad as you'd have every right to expect, My Cousin Vinny rises above its simple-minded premise and its promise of humor in stereotypes to deliver a good-natured comedy. And all that comes pretty close to faint praise, doesn't it? It's just that one expects so little from this story of small town justice and southern prejudice versus Italian-American cunning and street smarts. Macchio and Whitfield play two young men wrongly accused of murder. Things look bleak for the two young men until Macchio's mother sends down cousin Vinny, the family's only excuse for a lawyer; then they realize they're in trouble. In sweeps Pesci, in leather jacket, slicked back hair, bad Cadillac, worse boots and a smart talking girlfriend on his arm. It's this girlfriend, as played by Tomei who does the most to save this movie from its base origins. She knows “everything about cars” and can argue Vinny to a dumb stare standoff. That makes her more than a match for Vinny because arguing is what he does best and that makes him a match for the smooth talking southern lawyer he's up against. There's a lot of wasted effort here trying to distract us from what we know good and well is going to happen. Nevertheless, it's time pleasantly spent.