Starring: Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, Fred Gwynne
Director: Jonathan Lynn
Running Time: 120 mins
My Cousin Vinny is an American film about two young New Yorkers who are falsely accused of murder while on holiday in Alabama, so send for their cousin, who has just become a qualified lawyer, to defend them in court.
I really love a good courtroom drama, but My Cousin Vinny is more than just that. While it certainly offers up some great courtroom intrigue, that’s secondary to the brilliant character-driven tale at the heart of its story. With an energetic and as ever charismatic performance by Joe Pesci, as well as standout supporting turns from Marisa Tomei and Fred Gwynne, My Cousin Vinny is a smart and funny film from beginning to end.
Of course, if you’re looking for a really intricate courtroom drama, then this film isn’t the one to go for. It’s not Witness For The Prosecution, To Kill A Mockingbird or Primal Fear, but what those movies have in detail and complexity, My Cousin Vinny has in character drama and immense charisma.
Alongside the gripping albeit less intricate legal twists and turns, this film bursts into life with a brilliant blend of laugh-out-loud comedy and genuinely lovable, heartfelt drama. With an ensemble of characters that look like stereotypes on the surface, My Cousin Vinny surprises wonderfully with its effortlessly wonderful and caring perspective on a man trying to succeed against all odds.
Yet this isn’t some faux-inspirational drama that pits Vinny, far from an orthodox attorney, against the stuffy institution of the US court system. Instead, the film follows him on his journey to discovering his own calling, where he begins to learn how to behave and act in certain spheres, but still retains the fire that makes him so unique.
In that, there are few actors better suited to the role than Joe Pesci. His innate charisma is as strong as ever here, and while he’s able to play up a peppy, energetic character just as well as a man with a heart of gold. Pesci’s performance is a delight from start to finish, and his brilliant energy and dramatic ability makes it so easy to sympathise and love his character throughout.
But it’s not just Joe Pesci that impresses here. In a supporting role as his fiancée, Marisa Tomei is outstanding, again delivering a performance that looks like a comical stereotype at first, but opens up and provides a heartfelt and dramatically engrossing look at her character. Meanwhile, Fred Gwynne is an unlikely source of comic relief throughout the film, with a pitch-perfect performance as a haughty judge that neither makes him the film’s villain, nor your favourite person to be around.
The acting is fantastic across the board here, and that’s bolstered by a brilliant screenplay which blends gripping character drama and courtroom intrigue with hilarious comedy.
Director Jonathan Lynn too plays a big part in making this film work so well, ensuring that it’s neither an out-and-out comedy nor a pure drama, but rather one with a fantastic blend of genres, styles and characters.
Overall, I absolutely loved My Cousin Vinny. It’s brilliantly funny, genuinely intriguing and full of heartfelt drama from beginning to end. Complete with excellent performances across the board and strong directing, it’s a delightful, enjoyable and worthy watch for all, which is why I’m giving it an 8.0.