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MY COUSIN VINNY ($30) is a very cute and amusing little comedy that is certain to induce a good number of laughs. It is also the film that generated a whole lot of notoriety for its Oscar win- namely Marisa Tomei as Best Supporting Actress. No, I donít want to take anything away from Marisa Tomei, who I think is one fine and very beautiful actress, but Iím mystified as to how a throwaway part could earn any actress an Academy Award. I guess the competition was light that year, or perhaps Tomei was the only American in the running? Anyway, MY COUSIN VINNY remains as much fun today, as it was when it was released in 1992.

MY COUSIN VINNY tells the story of Bill Gambini (Ralph Macchio) and Stan Rothenstein (Mitchell Whitfield), two college students from New York driving cross-country. While passing through Alabama Bill and Stan are arrested the murder of a convenience store worker- a crime they didnít commit. With no money for legal council, Bill and Stan are relieved when Billís mother informs them that there is a lawyer in the family who will drive down to Alabama and take their case. Joe Pesci stars as the title character- Billís cousin Vinny Gambini is anything but the conventional lawyer. In fact, up until very recently Vinny had been working as an auto mechanic, while trying to pass the bar exam.

Consequently, Vinny has absolutely no courtroom experience and his field of study didnít include criminal law. This leaves the streetwise Vinny fighting an uphill battle- learning courtroom procedure as he goes, while also trying to save his clients from the electric chair. MY COUSIN VINNY also stars Fred Gwynne as Chamberlain Haller, the Yale educated Judge, who is a sticker for the kind of courtroom procedure that always seems to escape Vinny. Gwynne and Pesci play very well off one another and their courtroom sequences are absolutely priceless. Additionally, Marisa Tomei shines in her Academy Award winning role, as Vinnyís fiancťe Mona Lisa Vito. Tomei is a total delight and she generates some of the filmís biggest laughs, but the Oscar win still puzzles me. The cast of MY COUSIN VINNY also includes Lane Smith, Austin Pendleton, Bruce McGill and Maury Chaykin.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has done a rather nice job with their DVD edition of MY COUSIN VINNY. MY COUSIN VINNY is presented in its proper 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio and the DVD has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. While the image on the DVD is definitely pleasing, MY COUSIN VINNY appears just a bit soft when compared to movies just off theatrical release. This doesnít appear to be a flaw in the transfer; I would venture to guess that it has more to do with the original photography and processing of the film elements, than anything else. The transfer provides a good level of detail, plus the filmís colors are rendered with a natural level of saturation. Flesh tones appear healthy and there are no signs of chroma noise or bleeding during the presentation. Blacks are true and the picture delivers a solid level of shadow detail. The element used for the transfer is relatively free from blemishes, although on occasion, there is some noticeable film grain. Digital compression artifacts remain in check on this cleanly authored DVD.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 channel soundtrack decodes to standard surround with nice results. MY COUSIN VINNY sports a comedy mix; so directional sound effects are minimal. However, dialogue is clean and always intelligible. The filmís score and incidental music are the only sound elements in the mix that seems to make consistent use of the rear channels, as well as the bass channel. Overall, the sound mix is clean, pleasant and perfectly suited to the material. A French Dolby Surround soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus feature a cute interface that utilizes animation and sound. Through the menus one has access to the standard scene selection and set up, features, plus a few supplements. Director Jonathan Lynn provides a running audio commentary that is informative and remains entertaining for the filmís entire running time. Two theatrical trailers and two TV spots fill out the discís supplements.

MY COUSIN VINNY is an enjoyable little comedy that has been given a solid release on DVD. Fans of the movie canít go wrong by picking up this disc.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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