Anyone who greeted My Cousin Vinny with wariness, uncertain about a fish-out-of-water comedy featuring abrasive New Yorkers in the deep South, should reconsider this gem that gave the world Marisa Tomei. Tomei may not have blossomed into the star many thought she'd be, but her Oscar-winning performance opposite Joe Pesci was the most endearing introduction of new talent in years. Stealing every scene she's in, Tomei makes whining charming and toughness vulnerable, all with an exceptional sense of comic timing. Dale Launer's script offers some hilarious, if predictable, culture clashes, and the chemistry of Pesci and Tomei give the story exhilarating zip. As the exasperated judge, Fred Gwynne (in his final film appearance) is a perfect anchor and straight man, while Ralph Macchio and Mitchell Whitfield make the most of secondary roles, watching the unpracticed courtroom manner of the lawyer hired to defend them with dawning horror. The story is not high on originality, but its tight execution, especially the intelligent details of the case, make My Cousin Vinny a first-class piece of populist entertainment. Director Jonathan Lynn tried to wring another hit from the courtroom antics of novice attorneys with 1997's Trial and Error, starring Jeff Daniels and Michael Richards, but couldn't duplicate Vinny's intoxicating charm.
by Derek Armstrong review