Film review: My Cousin Vinny

Published: Monday, March 16 1992 12:00 a.m. MST

"My Cousin Vinny" is a case of a paper-thin script getting paper-thin direction as well. This is a film that gets better as it goes along, but not enough better to make much of a difference.

Still, the cast makes up for some of the slack.

Joe Pesci, whose last starring comedy effort was the woeful "The Super," here plays a street-wise but inexperienced attorney from Brooklyn whose first case is a lulu — his nephew and a friend (Ralph Macchio and Mitchell Whitfield) are accused of murder in a small Southern town.

So Pesci and his gum-snapping, leather miniskirted girlfriend (played broadly, but amusingly by Marisa Tomei) come to town to face down prosecutor Lane Smith and judge Fred Gwynne.

Logic is not the strong suit here. The evidence that lands Macchio and Whitfield in jail is, to understate, weak, and the culture-clash gags are overly familiar. Worse, however, the bulk of the film's humor relies on wild misinterpretations of language and mistaken identity, a conceit that wears out its welcome all too quickly.

Director Jonathan Lynn ("Nuns on the Run") and screenwriter Dale Launer ("Ruthless People," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels") have both done better.

But the players are having fun and some of the byplay is better for their genuine comic effort. (Macchio, however, after starring in other films — most notably the "Karate Kid" trilogy — has very little to do in his bland supporting part here.)

"My Cousin Vinny" is rated R for an overabundance of profanity, as well as some PG-level violence and vulgar humor.

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