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Two carefree pals Ralph Macchio and Mitchell Whitfield traveling through Alabama are mistakenly arrested, and charged with murder. Fortunately, one of them has a cousin who's a lawyer - Vincent Gambini Joe Pesci, Lethal Weapon 3, Home Alone, a former auto mechanic from Brooklyn who just passed his bar exam after his sixth try. Vinny's never been in court - or in Alabama - and when he arrives with his leather-clad girlfriend Marisa Tomei in her OscarÂr winning Supporting Actress performance, to try his first case, it's a real shock - for him and the Deep South!
When two Italian-American boys from New York are falsely accused of murder in a small Alabama town, they call for a lawyer--but the only lawyer they know is their cousin Vinny Joe Pesci, who made six attempts before he passed his bar exam. My Cousin Vinny is a classic fish-out-of-water comedy; the flimsy plot about clearing the two boys and solving the murder is just a hook to support a lot of culture-clash humor. Thanks to the strong cast of character actors like Fred Gwynne, Austin Pendleton, and Lane Smith, it's pretty funny--even old-hat jokes about Brooklyn versus Southern accents come to life. Pesci has played a few too many schticky characters, but this time it works. There's just enough humanity in his caricature to make Vinny likable and entertaining. When the movie was released, there was controversy about whether Marisa Tomei, playing Vinny's big-haired and black-leather-wearing fiancée, deserved to win the best supporting actress Oscar she beat out Judy Davis, Joan Plowright, Miranda Richardson, and Vanessa Redgrave; but seeing her performance on its own, it's a comic marvel and worthy of honor. --Bret Fetzer