As you know, each Friday, we here at Abnormal Use post some to other sites and articles of interest. Keeping with this week’s theme – the commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the release of My Cousin Vinny – we asked some of our favorite bloggers to share their thoughts on the film and its place in cinematic history. As previously noted, these are some real heavy hitters in the legal blogosphere. This week, each of them published their own post on the film’s anniversary and the lessons that we as lawyers can learn from the characters in the film. Today, we will direct you to those posts and collect our favorite excerpts from each of them.
Jay Hornack of the Panic Street Lawyer blog at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Law and the Art of Automobile Maintenance,” (3/11/12). Hornack, a lawyer and professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, discusses his students’ thoughts on the film and notes that most of them were born after the release of the film in 1992. He also explores the potential musical influences of the screenwriter, Dale Launer, who took a road trip to the South to develop the character of Vinny.(By the way, if you are not following Jay on Twitter, you need to do so here.).
Alan H. Crede of the Boston Personal Injury Lawyer blog, “My Cousin Vinny‘s Version of the Criminal Justice System,” (3/12/12). In his post, Alan raises an interesting point, and one we hadn’t considered before. Marisa Tomei plays a character who ultimately testifies as an expert in general automotive knowledge. Note: she did so a year before the U.S. Supreme Court handed down Daubert. Alan also has an interesting take on the Brady v. Maryland implications of the film, in particular, the interaction between Vinny ant the prosecutor and their exchange of information during the proceedings.
Steve McConnell of the Drug and Device Law blog, “An Appreciation of My Cousin Vinny – Twenty Years Later,” (3/12/12). In addition to blogging about medical drugs and devices, McConnell, who hails from Philadelphia, is a pop culture whiz. After comprehensively surveying the 1992 pop culture landscape which produced Vinny (as well as Tomei’s Oscar win for her role a year later), McConnell explains several object lessons trial lawyers from the film.
Kendall Gray of the Appellate Record blog, “My Mentor, Vinny,” (3/12/12). Gray, a lawyer in Houston, uses a series of YouTube clips from the film and notes the “many invaluable life lessons and practice pointers during the film.” Because of those great lessons of import, Gray thanks Vinny for his status as his mentor. These lessons include courtroom decorum, punctuality, the value of directness (and the risks of being too direct), the proper approach to questioning an expert witness, and the importance of home/work balance.
James Daily of The Law and the Multiverse blog, “My Cousin Vinny: The Perils of Joint Representation,” (3/13/12). We love the guys at The Law and the Multiverse. In fact, you may remember that we interviewed them just over a year ago. They apply legal analysis to superhero comic books and films. In his Vinny piece, Daily explores an interesting issue: “Simultaneous representation of clients whose interests may conflict.” Recall that Vinny represents his cousin, played by Ralph Macchio, and another defendant, played by Mitchell Whitfield, both of whom are accusing of murder. Daily explores whether this is, in fact, permissible under the circumstances.
Professor Alberto Bernabe of the Torts blog, “My Cousin Vinny: A Story About Legal Education,” (3/12/12). Discussing the film from a legal education perspective, Professor Bernabe makes an interesting point about the film: “Vinny is terrible at the things we do teach in law school, but very good at the things we don’t.” He may not know the complexities of contract law or legal ethics, but as Bernabe notes, “law students could learn from him as to how to use legal thinking in the complexity of actual law practice.” (By the way, we interviewed Professor Bernabe back in November of 2010).
Max Kennerly of the Litigation & Trial blog, “Every Young Trial Lawyer Needs To Watch My Cousin Vinny,” (3/14/12). Kennerly is a maverick legal blogger, so he was a natural writer to approach about this project. He notes that one reason why the film continues to resonate with lawyers is because “everything that happens in the movie could happen — and often does happen — at trial.” Offering an anecdote from a recent deposition in federal court, Max also observes that the film confirms a legal practice truism: “Lawyers don’t prevail by coming up with great ideas; they prevail by coming up with ideas that convince others.”
Erik Mazzone of the Law Practice Matters blog, “My Cousin Vinny and Resilience in Law Practice,” (3/15/12). A friend of the blog and the Director of the Center for Practice Management at the North Carolina Bar Association, Erik (note the proper spelling of his first name) focuses on the power of resilience. He writes: ” Throughout the first three-quarters of My Cousin Vinny, Joe Pesci’s Vinny suffers setback after setback. Yet each night he works hard and each morning he comes back to the courthouse to do battle for another day.” It is only through resilience that he finds success as a lawyer.
Kevin Underill of the Lowering The Bar legal humor blog, “Everything That Guy Just Said Is Bullsh*t: A Review of My Cousin Vinny,” (3/16/12). Underhill is one of the blogosphere’s funniest legal writers, and so he applies his talents to a new review of the film. It is not to be missed.
It wasn’t just law bloggers who participated. Our friend Ryan Steans, an old pal and non-lawyer pop culture blogger at The Signal Watch blog, jumped the gun big time and published his review of the film over a month ago. His take is very interesting because he had never seen My Cousin Vinny until 2012, and as a non-lawyer, he did have a very different view than the rest of the project participants. To him, the film was just a forgettable 1990s comedy that he saw for the first time twenty years after its original release. Concludes he: “[T]he movie sort of fails in part because Joe Pesci isn’t actually funny. He seems sort of confused and dumb, and emotionally detached from Tomei who is carrying all the weight plotwise and from a comedic standpoint. It’s satisfying to a certain audience in its utter predictability, but its not much . . . fun. Still, people refer to this movie all the time, so I am likely missing something.”
Don’t forget that we here at Abnormal Use offered our own thoughts on the film on Monday before our series of interviews published the remainder of the week. In case you missed them, you can revisit them here:
Nick Farr, “My Cousin Vinny – More Than A Movie,” (3/12/12). 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.).
Rob Green, “Lessons Learned From Vincent L. Gambini,” (3/12/12). 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?
Rob Green, “Review: Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings Just For You,” (3/12/12) 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.
That, dear reader, brings our week long anniversary coverage to a close. We’ll be back for the 50th anniversary celebration!
(Editor’s note: The ABA Journal excerpted our interview with director Jonathan Lynn here and our Q&A with screenwriter/co-producer Dale Launer here. Thanks also to these bloggers for their support: Boing Boing, Widener Law Blog, Above The Law, God/Politics/Rock ‘n’ Roll, Lowering The Bar, Nuts & Boalts, The Volokh Conspiracy, and the Northern Law Blog. To see a full index of our My Cousin Vinny twentieth anniversary coverage, please see here.).