Judge Eric Profancik has just begun his online JD program at the Ben Matlock School of Law.
Our review of My Cousin Vinny, published July 27th, 2000, is also available.
"What's a yute?"
Joe Pesci. Marisa Tomei. Quite the unlikely combination yet they come together to form a brilliant comedic duo. My Cousin Vinny is the improbable comedy that keeps on giving. Funny in 1992, it's still funny today. What are you waiting for? The clock is ticking so go on and read my review. The grits won't be ready for a while.
Facts of the Case
Taking a scenic Southern road trip on their way to college, Billy (Ralph Macchio, The Karate Kid) and Stan (Mitchell Whitfield, W.I.T.C.H.) stop at the local store to buy some cheap food. Soon after leaving they are pulled over by a cop and are arrested. Initially thinking they're being busted for inadvertently stealing a can of tuna, the two soon realize they're actually accused of murdering the store clerk. Billy uses his phone call to tell his mom, who realizes they have a lawyer in the family. Soon Billy's cousin, Vinny LaGuardia Gambini (Joe Pesci, JFK,) and his girlfriend, Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler), come riding to the rescue, only to find themselves proverbial fish out of water. Making matters worse, Vinny just recently passed his bar exam and has never tried a case. Judge Chamberlain Haller (Fred Gwynne, The Munsters) won't cut the visiting lawyer any slack, so Vinny has to figure out have to try a case without letting the judge know that's he totally out of his league. But more important than that, can Vinny save his cousin and friend from getting "the chair" for a crime they didn't commit?
Do you recall the buzz that Marisa Tomei received for her portrayal as Mona Lisa Vito? It was quite the scoop back in 1992 when she eventually went on to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Can you believe that? Also keep in mind that this was pretty much her first big movie role. What a great way to start your career. (She has since been nominated but not won for two more Oscars.) She took the reins of her career and she charged forward, and has slowly and steadily grown into a mature and accomplished actress—not just one who does comedy oh so well.
The combination of Marisa and Joe doesn't seem like it should work at first blush but you just can't judge that book by its cover. From the very first moment when the two come out of their convertible in the little town, you know you're in for a treat. Joe sheds his tough guy persona and puts on his comedic jacket only to be perfectly complemented by Marisa and her sexy charms. Their over-the-top New York personas, and accents, are so much fun to watch you just never know what's going to come next. They take the most mundane situations and turn them into brilliantly funny situations—from hooting owls to eating grits to talking about cars. And just when you think the two are going to devolve into a nasty fight, they're able to slowly twist it into a scene of pure comedic delight.
While Joe and Marisa are clearly the stars and the vast majority of the reason to want to watch My Cousin Vinny, we need to take note of two other actors: Ralph Macchio and Fred Gwynne. Honestly, Ralph is never going to live down being the karate kid. It is his acting life, and his résumé shows that it has trapped him to small roles, never really capitalizing on his early fame. His name may be second on the marquee, his character may be the impetus for the crux of the movie, but he is playing fourth banana to everyone else. Then there's Fred Gwynne, everyone's favorite Herman Munster (but don't you dare go back in time and ask him about that role!) who is given fourth billing on the film. Opposite to Ralph, Fred takes his final, nominal role and succeeds at making the most of his limited time. It's a pleasure to watch him menace over poor Vinny.
I can't say that I recall ever seeing My Cousin Vinny on DVD, so this is my first digital experience and I'm disappointed. Right from the start, the 1.85:1, 1080p video gives you a flagrant error. Take a look at the outside white lines on the road and you'll see significant shimmer and artifacting. Ouch! Fortunately that's the most egregious error but you'll still find a good deal of mosquito noise combined with a flat presentation. Colors are accurate if subdued, blacks are decent, and details are quite average. I just did not enjoy the video because of the preceding plus I also felt the presentation was too dark and didn't impart that deep level of realism and dimensionality. The new DTS-HD Master Audio track is also wanting. While the dialogue is clean and clear, I found the surrounds to have a completely unnatural presentation. It felt too processed and didn't flow quite so…naturally.
The disc has but a smattering of bonus items. An audio commentary by director Jonathan Lynn (The Whole Nine Yards) is the meat of the special features; and while I found it informative and interesting, I was also somewhat bored by Lynn's sedate speaking voice and all too often gaps of silence. Also included are two trailers and two TV spots. All of this material was previously available on the DVD.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I hadn't noticed in previous viewings the subtle "bird" that Fred Gwynne gives to the audience. Look at the various times he rests his head against his hand, and then take a look and see which middle finger is pointing in what upward direction
It's not the "perfect" Blu-ray presentation that some studios like to tout on the front of their covers, but My Cousin Vinny overcomes such hurdles by being a wonderfully funny and still fresh comedy. With inspired performances, this one will be remembered as a great, classic movie for many years to come. I therefore recommend that you go out and buy My Cousin Vinny on DVD. This Blu-ray is not worthy of the upgrade and significantly higher price tag.
My Cousin Vinny is hereby found not guilty of being an inferior comedy
but is found guilty of being a bad Blu-ray release.
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