20th Anniversary: “My Cousin Vinny” (1992)

Twenty years ago tomorrow, on March 13, 1992, the popular legal comedy My Cousin Vinny hit theatres.  If you’re a lawyer, you’ve probably seen the film many, many times and quoted it just as often. Written and co-produced by Dale Launer, and directed by Jonathan Lynn, the film stars Joe Pesci as Vincent LaGuardia Gambini, a New Yorker and new bar member defending two capital murder defendants in faraway Alabama.  It’s a funny, funny movie. Upon its release, New York Times film critic Vincent Canby noted: “The film has a secure and sophisticated sense of what makes farce so delicious, which may not be surprising, since its credentials are about as impeccable as you can find in the peccable atmosphere of Hollywood.”  But there is a truth that accompanies the humor. Jack Garner of the Gannett News Service, writing at the time, saw fit to include this statement in his review: “And a lawyer friend even tells me he found the courtroom segments more natural and believable than he’s seen in some for-more-prestige judicial dramas.” In March of 1993, a full year after the film’s release, actress Marisa Tomei, who played Vinny’s fiancee (and an expert witness to boot),  would win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress at the 65th Academy Awards. Even two decades after its release, the film continues to resonate with lawyer viewers. In 2008, the ABA Journal named it the third best legal film of all time.  (The ABA Journal would also name the character of Vinny number twelve on the list of Top 25 fictional lawyers; its readers, in a popular vote, chose Vinny as number one.). We here at Abnormal Use have always been fans of this movie, so we decided to commemorate its twentieth anniversary with a full week’s worth of coverage.  As you know, in the past, we have featured interviews with Hollywood celebrities on the anniversaries of the release of their legal themed films, including an interview with the writers and producers of the 1991 film Class Action last year this time last year.  However, for this occasion, we’ve gone all out. This week, we’ll be posting  interviews with members of the cast and crew, our own thoughts and memories of the film, and links to other bloggers’ anniversary thoughts.

We are particularly excited about this project and offer the following preview of what to expect this week:

Later Today

My Cousin Vinny – More Than A Movie.”  In this piece, writer Nick Farr explains how My Cousin Vinny changed both his life and the outcome of a 7th grade student council election. (Yes, you read that right.).

Lessons Learned From Vincent L. Gambini.”  In this piece, our newest contributor, Rob Green, offer six practical lessons that lawyers can glean from watching the film. If you think about it, the film is its own continuing education course with many practice tips contained therein.  In fact, we should probably all get CLE credit for watching it again, don’t you think?

Review: Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings Just For You.”  Did you know that years after the film’s release, Joe Pesci released an album in character as Vinny? Rob Green somehow found a copy of this long forgotten album and drafted a review.  Spoiler alert: the album is not for the faint of heart.  Or the faint of ears, for that matter.

Tuesday, March 13

Interview with Director Jonathan Lynn. You know Jonathan Lynn’s work.  He directed Clue, Trial & Error, and a number of other beloved films.  What you might not know is that Lynn once studied law at Cambridge. In this interview with Nick Farr, Lynn recalls the shooting of the film and the funniest moment of its production.

Wednesday, March 14

Interview with writer/co-producer Dale Launer.  You also know Launer’s work.  He wrote Ruthless People and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. In his interview with Nick Farr, Launer, as the creator of the Vinny character, shares his memories on how he developed the character and brought him to life.  Launer also reveals the details of the planned sequel that never made it into existence.

Thursday, March 15

Interview with cast member James Rebhorn, who played George Wilbur, the prosecution’s automotive expert witness from the FBI.  Rebhorn, a veteran character actor, has played many lawyers, judges, and jurors over the course of his career, and he shares his memories of the film and thoughts on the craft with our editor, Jim Dedman.  “Seinfeld” Alert: Rebhorn also played the district attorney who prosecuted Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer in the “Seinfeld” series finale, so of course we asked him about that, as well.

Interview with cast member Mitchell Whitfield, who played Stan Rothenstein, one of two murder defendant clients represented by Vinny.  Whitfield would go on to play Barry, Rachel’s former fiancee, on “Friends.”  Whitfield spoke to our own Steve Buckingham about his memories of the film, its place in cinema history, and of course, what it is like to kiss Jennifer Aniston on a sitcom set.

Interview with cast member Raynor Scheine, who played Ernie Crane, the eyewitness whose testimony Vinny demolishes due to the presence of dirty windows and vegetation in his field of view. Scheine, a denizen of both the stage and screen, shares some behind the scenes memories with our own Nick Farr.

Friday, March 16

My Cousin Vinny Links.  We asked a number of our favorite law bloggers – including some  heavy hitters in the legal blogosphere – to rewatch the film and provide their thoughts on the film twenty years after its release.  They’ll be posting their reviews throughout the week, and on Friday, we’ll provide links to all of them and post excerpts from each of their posts for your review and commentary here.

As the days proceed, we will activate the links to this content above.