Marisa Tomei caused quite a stir in 1993 when she walked away with the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in My Cousin Vinny. Even after watching the film again, I guess I’m still a bit amazed. Now that’s not to say she doesn’t do a wonderful job here. The fact is the entire cast did a splendid job. I can’t say I found her performance any better than Joe Pesci as Vinny “Sack Of Potatoes” Gambini or the wonderful portrayal of the judge by Fred Gwynne. While it’s not my intention to open up an old can of worms, it is that award which brings us to the re-issue DVD of My Cousin Vinny. To help celebrate this next round of Academy Awards and to line the old pockets with a little more gold dust, Fox is releasing some films that have taken those statues in the past. Unfortunately Fox did not see fit to add anything or even shine the print up in any way. This disc is identical to the 2000 release in every way. The video and audio transfers are exactly the same as is the commentary and small list of extras.
The story is nothing more than an elaborate setup for Pesci to do his thing. Billy, played by the old Karate Kid Ralph Macchio, is driving through backwoods Alabama with his buddy Stan (Whitfield). They accidentally steal a can of tuna from a small store. When the cops chase them down and cart them off to jail, they consider the threats of execution a bit harsh for shoplifting. That is, until they discover the clerk was killed shortly after they left, and now they’re charged with his murder. Short on cash, they call in Billy’s cousin Vinny who has finally after 6 years passed the New York Bar Exam. Vinny’s in over his head, and his New York Italian attitude doesn’t earn him any points with the down home justice ideology of Judge Haller. Desperately outclassed, Vinny must resort to street smarts to save the boys. The case turns on the testimony of automobile expert girlfriend Lisa (Tomei). The truth is, there are several rolling in the aisles funny moments here. Stan’s seen too many prison films, so when he first meets Vinny he fears the man is there to have his way with him. In a play on words conversation that would make Abbott and Costello proud, this 20 second joke plays out for a few minutes of gut busting hilarity. Pesci’s interplay with Gwynne is also classic, and while always predictable, it is nonetheless very funny.
My Cousin Vinny is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. There’s nothing stunning about this recycled transfer. Of course, there’s really nothing terribly wrong with it either. Everything about this presentation, from black levels to color reproduction, screams out mediocrity. Colors are natural looking enough but are often soft and subdued. There is some print artifact and a touch of grain to bring the quality down from average ever so slightly. While the film is not that old relatively, it is showing some serious signs of age.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is a disappointment. There are many moments when a richer sound field would have served this film well. The various wake-up calls Vinny gets, from factory whistles to trains, would have been a lot more effective if placed in a more aggressive 5.1 presentation. Granted, much of the film is dialogue, and that plays out fine in 2.0. You can hear everything without any trouble. The southern flavored musical cues sound good, if not dynamic.
There is a rather spotty audio commentary by Jonathan Lynn, who directed the film. There’s too much dead air, and all he really adds is a ton of how great everybody was and what a good job everybody did. Skip it.
Apart from the commentary, only some TV spots and trailers fill out the disc. Nothing really to write home about. Certainly nothing to accent the alleged special release.
My Cousin Vinny is a very funny movie. Nothing less. Nothing more. If you wanted the film, chances are you already own it. I don’t see any reason why anyone would suddenly become interested simply because of Tomei’s Oscar. Fox did add a gold embroidered slip cover to remind us of the Oscar win. This is, after all, an Oscar winner, so that’s why you should buy it, again. “You mean you were serious about that?”