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Top 100 Movies Of The 1990's: #66 My Cousin Vinny

Box Office: $52.9 Million

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actress (Marisa Tomei)

Oscar Wins: Best Supporting Actress (Marisa Tomei)

MovieRankings.Net: 91/100

Available To Stream: HBO Max

It's wild to think Marisa Tomei won an Oscar for My Cousin Vinny. It's not that she doesn't deserve it. She's great as Mona Lisa Vito in what has become one of the best female comedic performances of the decade. It's just shocking to see the Academy reward a comedy. 

Tomei winning didn't set any sort of precedent of comedies getting more Oscar love. You could argue that Dianne Wiest and Mira Sorvino would also get Best Supporting Actress for comedies but those were Woody Allen movies. I don't count those as traditional comedies. The closest comparison would be Melissa McCarthy getting nominated for Bridesmaids 19 years later and she didn't even win.

I am glad that My Cousin Vinny got that recognition because otherwise it is the kind of smaller comedy that could slip through the cracks. It wasn't a massive box office success when it came out. It did get as high as number two in the box office in it's opening weekend but got beat out by Wayne's World...which was in it's fifth week of release.

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The performances by Tomei and Joe Pesci obviously elevate this movie but the screenplay by Dale Launer deserves a ton of credit. The characters are so clear and also treats them with respect despite their differences. Vinny Gambini is a little obxnioxious but he's a good person. Lane Smith and Fred Gwynne play the local D.A. and judge and neither are painted as awful bad guys. They are always fair. This screenplay goes out of it's way to make sure we see these people are humans and not stereotypes.

Some people (including Roger Ebert) thought there wasn't much for Ralph Macchio to do here but I think it's a solid performance. With such heightened characters around him, he's very natural and likable. That's all that part is really looking for. This came out three years after The Karate Kid Part III and his last major role for a long time.

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It was quite the opposite for Joe Pesci. This was in the middle of a huge run for him. After finishing Goodfellas, he had Home Alone (#70), JFK (#68), this, Lethal Weapon 3, Home Alone 2 and Casino. Not all of those are great movies but they were all successful and few actors had a stretch like that in the early 1990's than Pesci. Him as Vinny LaGuardia Gambini feels the most natural. The Home Alone/Lethal Weapon parts are too goofy and he's hopefully not evil like he portrays in Goodfellas/Casino. I imagine Pesci the actor is like Vinny in that he's not someone you'd expect to be great but he is because he's smarter then he appears and more talented than people realize.

I don't know if you'd see this movie made today. There is nothing cancellable in this movie and ages almost as well as Marisa Tomei does. It's more that studios seem to shy away from R-rated comedies. Jennifer Lawrence has a new one coming out this summer but they are pretty rare in 2023. That's a shame because this movie works because certain characters do swear and it adds to the realism of a silly premise. I don't know if you can make a movie like this any better than what the finished product ended up being.

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66. My Cousin Vinny