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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 11/11/02

My Cousin Vinny
1992 (2000) - 20th Century Fox

review by Graham Greenlee of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

My Cousin Vinny Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/C+/C-

Specs and Features
120 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 55:13, in chapter 12), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary with director Jonathan Lynn, theatrical trailer, TV spot, film-themed menu screens, scene access (24 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned

"My biological clock is tickin' like THIS, and the way this case is going, we ain't never gettin' married!"

Do I even need to discuss Marisa Tomei's Oscar win when reviewing My Cousin Vinny? Back in 1993, it seemed that everyone and their cousin had an opinion about Tomei's "shocking" win. Truth be told, her win wasn't that surprising, as she gives a wonderful performance (but more on that later). Ten years after the fact, it seems that My Cousin Vinny is ready for a new life on DVD and for objective eyes to look back on this lighthearted comedy.

Billy (Ralph Macchio) and Stan (Mitchell Whitfield) are two college buddies on a road trip. While driving through Alabama, they're arrested and set to be tried for the murder of a convenience store clerk... a crime that they didn't commit. However, all the evidence points at them, so they need a really good lawyer who can convince a jury that they're innocent. Or at least a lawyer who's cheap.

It just so happens that Billy's cousin, Vinny (Joe Pesci), just passed the bar (after six attempts, no less). So Vinny and his girlfriend Lisa (Marisa Tomei) travel down to Alabama. Vinny has never been to a trial before, and Lisa keeps pressuring him into winning the case so they can finally get married. Crass and unfamiliar with court etiquette, Vinny struggles to even keep his case afloat, much to the chagrin of Judge Haller (Fred Gwynne), who is almost excited at the opportunity to try a murder case. With overwhelming evidence against his clients and courtroom behavior that is constantly charging him with contempt of court, Vinny must get serious about his profession and admit that he needs help from Lisa to win the case and save his cousin.

My Cousin Vinny is an almost painfully obvious comedy, that jumps from plot point to plot point. But what elevates it are the fine performances from the main cast. Joe Pesci is at his best as the fish out of water, whose thick accent and bad taste in clothes is a constant nuisance to Judge Haller. Endearing and sympathetic, Vinny is the archetypal underdog that you can't help but root for. And Fred Gwynne, better known for his work on The Munsters, is incredibly dignified and hilarious as Judge Haller, who is very much the proper Southern gentleman.

As for Marisa Tomei, her performance here is very much the highlight of the film. I feel she deserved of every award she got for this role. When a virtually unproven unknown takes an already funny film and turns it into something truly classic, that's the mark of a great performance. Even without the much-ballyhooed Oscar win, Tomei's performance would have made this film a pop culture event. She simply lights up the screen with three hilarious monologues (the first about deer hunting, the second about her biological clock, and the third about Posy-Traction).

The video transfer on My Cousin Vinny is nice, but is far from perfect. The image is a bit soft and there is the occasional compression artifact every now and then. However, the blacks are deep, with good shadow detail, and the colors appear natural. I also detected very little edge enhancement haloing.

The English 2.0 surround track isn't anything special either, but it features some nice clarity in the dialogue, which is never drowned out by the occasional loud music or effect.

Though a little skimpy on the extras, My Cousin Vinny does include an audio commentary with director Jonathan Lynn. I have to admit the track is a bit dull. Most of his comments are self-congratulatory asides like "Joe brought so much to the film" and "I love Marisa's reading here." There are also numerous long gaps here. I think Lynn would have probably played better if they'd gotten one of the cast members to join him on the track. The remainder of the extras amount to the original theatrical trailer and a TV spot, both in full-frame.

A fluff comedy that will continue to entertain as many people as it infuriates, My Cousin Vinny is a great little movie that features Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei and Fred Gywnne in career defining performances. It's a basic DVD release, but a good film nonetheless.

Graham Greenlee
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