My Cousin Vinny
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the language is crude throughout. Because the film's humor and story are appealing to older tweens and teens, it's regrettable that the filmmakers illustrate the "fish out of water" nature of the leading characters with so much swearing and rough language.
What's the story?
When two college-bound New York boys are mistakenly arrested for murder in a small Alabama town, Vinny (Joe Pesci), who is a cousin of one of the boys and who has recently passed the bar after six tries, is called to the rescue. Vinny and his fiancee, Mona Lisa (Marisa Tomei), street-savvy "declasse" Italians from the big city, arrive to take on the town's earnest legal establishment and the serious circumstantial evidence against the young men. It's a ferocious battle between Eastern street smarts and Southern propriety. The two cultures meet head on with both boys' freedom at stake.
Is it any good?
Vinny is a role tailor-made for Joe Pesci. He relishes the part, and makes a meal of every courtroom speech and every close encounter with the soul of Alabama. Marisa Tomei won an Oscar for her portrayal of Mona Lisa Vito, and she lights up the screen with her warm, overtly sensuous, yet wise performance. In what must be a first for a legal courtroom farce set in The South, the judge and the law enforcement officers are not played as buffoons or bigots, but honorable and out to administer justice.
There are some very funny moments, indelible characterizations, and memorable lines (no one will forget Vinny's description of America's "yoots."). The plot turns, however, are purposefully silly and far-fetched. Still, it's a delight to watch the two leads see beyond the circumstantial and use their well-hidden mental acuity to win over the hearts and minds of their opponents and the audience.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about snap judgments. What are the filmmakers trying to say about first impressions and stereotyping? How did both Vinny and Mona Lisa belie their appearances?
How was the Southern sheriff unlike other typical movie depictions of small-town Southern sheriffs?
Do you think you were supposed to believe that this story could really happen? What are some of the clues that the filmmakers used to show that it was a fairy tale or farce and not to be taken seriously?