Subtly employing the city mouse/country mouse theme, MY COUSIN VINNY is a light-hearted courtroom comedy. While it occasionally stoops to some stereotyping, the movie doesn't do so mean-spiritedly. In any event, both sides get equal skewering.
Vinny Gambini, brilliantly portrayed by Joe Pesci, is a Brooklyn boy who has finally passed the Bar (after repeated failures) and now finds himself defending his nephew and his nephew's friend against murder charges in the Bible Belt. Along with his too beautiful fiancee, played by Academy Award Winner Marissa Tomei, Pesci investigates the southern style of life, as he fathoms southern courtroom procedures and tries to get some sleep. The resulting clash of cultures is sometimes predictable, but honestly, is very inventive for the most part.
The comedy of the court room scenes is heightened by the late Fred Gwynne who plays the presiding judge. His by-the-book habits and short-fused temper are a perfect foil to Vinny's laconic style. It is their interaction that feeds most of the cultural clashing. But there is also a clash of the sexes that underlies the film, as Vinny stubbornly refuses the help of his fiancee. This confrontation is also highlighted in the courtroom when the DA refuses to believe that she could possibly be considered an expert in automechanics, even though her brothers, her father, her uncles, and just about everyone else in her family are expert mechanics. (The DA becomes convinced in a wonderful cross-interview scene.)
MY COUSIN VINNY was both critically well-received and a huge box-office success. There's a reason for that: it is a well-written, well-directed and perfectly acted comedy that stands up well even after repeated viewings. See it for yourself and you'll understand why, too.