Cabin Fever Theater: MY COUSIN VINNY

You won't believe how well this movie holds up.

The world is filled with streaming options - movies, TV shows, all kinds of entertainment, widely available at the touch of a button. The sheer variety of content can sometimes feel overwhelming, and now (with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic keeping us indoors and away from our friends) we'd like to help you sort through it, with personal recommendations from your favorite BMD writers. Some of these recommendations will be new, some of 'em will be older titles. Everything's up for consideration here at Cabin Fever Theater.

I distinctly remember seeing My Cousin Vinny when it hit theaters in 1992. I was just a kid then, my age barely in the double digits, and seeing R-rated movies in theaters was still a somewhat new and exciting experience for me. Oh, there'd been others (Die Hard 2 and Quick Change come to mind, and both of those arrived two years prior), but those experiences were still few and far between enough to register as events. The older kids in my neighborhood always seemed duly impressed when it turned out I'd seen something R-rated before they had, and I beamed with pride whenever they noted it. It's weird, the things you give a shit about when you're a kid. 

Anyway, after its theatrical run, My Cousin Vinny went on to become a mainstay on HBO, airing endlessly among the other repeat screenings of Poltergeist III, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade and the like. During that period I must've watched Jonathan Lynn's film another dozen times - often enough that, during the rewatch I mounted over this past weekend (my first return to the My Cousin Vinny well since...shit, must've been over a decade), I could still recall entire scenes' worth of dialogue. And y'know what? My Cousin Vinny holds the hell up.

For the uninitiated, My Cousin Vinny's a fish-out-of-water comedy about a personal injury lawyer (Joe Pesci) and his fiancee, Mona (a luminous Marisa Tomei, in a deservedly Oscar-winning performance), arriving in a backwater Alabama town to defend Vinny's cousin (Ralph Macchio) and his friend (Mitchell Whitfield) from a bogus murder charge. Vinny and Mona are pure NYC, all leather jackets and big hair and "Fawk you" attitude, and if the Lynn's film were strictly a wacky comedy about those characters bumping heads with a bunch of backwoods rednecks, it'd still be pretty funny. But My Cousin Vinny's quite a bit more than that: it's an acting showcase, for one thing, with Pesci, Tomei and the late Fred Gwynne (as the surly, perpetually unamused judge overseeing Macchio's trial) all turning in excellent performances.

For another, Lynn's film is also a fairly compelling mystery: it's clear these two young men did not commit the murder they've been accused of, but the evidence - which includes Macchio seemingly providing a confession once taken into custody - is stacked against them to an incredible degree. How will this personal injury lawyer, who doesn't seem to even understand how to navigate a pre-trial hearing, supposed to win this thing? The ensuing trial, which unfolds between sequences wherein Vinny and Mona acclimate to small-town life (and mix it up with the sometimes hostile locals, including a huge dumbass who screws Mona out of $200 in a game of pool), is a lot of fun, but it's also kind of riveting, and Vinny's final, case-winning masterstroke - impossible without the assistance of Mona - is unusually satisfying. 

My Cousin Vinny's a feel-good movie, a funny movie, a well-made movie, and a movie that's overflowing with performances worth savoring. Give it a whirl (it's streaming now via Starz), even if you've already seen it. I think you'll be surprised how well it holds up.