Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, Ralph Macchio
20th Century Fox
Ever so often, there's a film that you seem to just enjoy for no big reason at all. It's not particularly a brilliant film...it doesn't really have anything to do with an emotional connection...it's simply a film one really enjoys. "My Cousin Vinny" is such a film for me. The film, a comedy, follows the experiences of two young men mistaken for murderers in small-town Alabama. Their family sends their cousin, Vinny, to defend them. Vinny, played by Joe Pesci, is clearly unqualified and out of his league. The players here follow many of the stereotypes that are commonly accepted...from Alabama to New Jersey to Italians to murderers.
Yet, it does so relatively gently and mostly inoffensively. Pesci is allowed to exercise his comic chops here and does so nicely. He picked up an American Comedy Award for this performance.
Marisa Tomei, who I simply love, won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Pesci's girlfriend. Admittedly, she does a wonderful job here but to this day I remain a bit surprised by the Oscar.
First, she's done better work and, secondly, in one of the few times that the Academy has acknowledged the vitality of comedy I'm fairly surprised they picked this film. Ralph Macchio, mostly known for "Karate Kid", does an adequate job here, but really adds nothing to the character. Other fun performances include Fred Gwynn as the judge and Mitchell Whitfield as Stan Rothenstein. Perhaps it is the gentleness of this film that I appreciate most.
While it certainly does feed into some stereotypes, it seems to do so with a certain amount of affection. This affection made the viewing experience pleasurable, and the performances of Pesci and Tomei continue to make this film one I watch on a regular basis.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic