Lion of the Blogosphere

My Cousin Vinny in the Wall Street Journal

Unfortunately the WSJ has tightened its paywall and I can’t figure out how to break it via a desktop web browser, however it you are able to read the article it’s a great read.

80% of lawyers say their favorite law-related movie is My Cousin Vinny, which celebrates its 25th anniversary today. That’s my pick as well, and I have positively mentioned it a few times before. The reason I like it is because it’s the only trial movie that actually resembles a real criminal trial. Vinny cross-examines his witnesses the way a real defense attorney would do it. Nearly all other movies depicting legal actions are complete BS and consequently I find them unwatchable.

It turns out that it’s not an accident:

Director Mr. Lynn studied law at Cambridge and was “determined not to have anything in the movie that was legally incorrect,” assuming accuracy would be funnier.

“Vinny” screenwriter Dale Launer isn’t a lawyer but did his homework. He interviewed cops from Yazoo County, Miss., and a deputy attorney from Butler, Ala. on whom the movies competitive-but-collegial prosecutor was modeled.

Indeed, the way that prosecutor is collegial with the defense attorney outside of the courtroom is how it is in the real world.

I wish I could say that this proves that more successful movies can be made if only the director and screenwriter would do their homework, but the reality is that outside of the legal profession it was only a middling success. The crappy movie A Few Good Men, where the legal stuff is completely bogus and ridiculous, had a worldwide gross almost four times as high as “Vinny,” and ditto with the crappy movie Erin Brockovich.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

March 13, 2017 at EDT pm

Posted in Movies

27 Responses

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  1. So why exactly is A Few Good Men a crappy movie.


    March 13, 2017 at EDT pm

  2. A Few Good Men was embarrassing. And worse was how many SWPL types loved the Harvard boy putting the deplorable fishtowners in their place. Defending our borders is shameful, as is risking one’s life for our country.

    What do you think about the original version, though, Lion. The Caine Mutiny was a lot more convincing, included a lot of conscripts in legitimate tension with career officers, and had Humphrey Bogart in the Jessup role. As good an actor as Nicholson is, he’s nothing compared to Bogart and you can see it there.

    Plus, strawberries.


    March 13, 2017 at EDT pm

  3. I thought it was a delightful romp, but true to the courtroom it ain’t. First, the judge actually did legal research and knew the rules of evidence. In a real trial this is seldom true. See, e.g., Vincent Bugliosi’s takedown of Judge Ito’s ridiculous evidentiary rulings. Second, the sheriff/bailiff would never help defense counsel check on the real killers, no matter how interested he was in classic buicks. Third, there is currently an epidemic of exculpatory evidence concealment going on, especially among federal prosecutors. Chief Judge kozinski in the 9th circuit recently excoriated the U.S. Attorney’s office in L.A.over this, and you porobably recall the Ted s
    Stevens debacle in Alaska a few years ago. Prosecutors and defense lawyers do not work together. If you want the real scoop on their attitudes toward each other, read one of Michael Conno!y’s novels, like The Lincoln Lawyer.

    Mel Belli

    March 13, 2017 at EDT pm

  4. Excellent movie.



    March 13, 2017 at EDT pm

  5. what makes MCV realistic exactly?

    james n.s.w

    March 13, 2017 at EDT pm

  6. This is also the late Justice Scalia’s favorite legal movie as well. Clips of it are always shown in law school.


    March 13, 2017 at EDT pm

  7. It’s my favorite too.

    Opening statements:

    VINNY: “Everything that other guy just said is bullshit.”

    Cross-examination of fact witnesses:

    VINNY: “How many fingers am I holding up, dear?” THE COURT: “Let the record show that counsel was holding up four fingers.” VINNY: “Your Honor, please!”

    Voir dire of prosecution’s surprise expert:

    THE COURT: “Mr. Gambini, that was a cogent, well-reasoned, and persuasive objection. Overruled!”

    Joe Schmoe

    March 13, 2017 at EDT pm

  8. Vinny might have closed the gap from DVD sales and paid streams.

    How about a sitcom featuring the hijinks of an accident lawyer with ghetto clients, his shady Russian doctor, and a fat bitter insurance defense lawyer who makes $22 an hour?

    Better Call Saul showed a sleazy struggling lawyer can be funny.

    PS some strict paywalls will have free access with a google amp link. Google promotes sites now that load fast and have minimal junk and obnoxious features with higher pagerank and the amp logo.

    I think adblockers might need to start downloading ads and just now showing them for certain sites.


    March 13, 2017 at EDT pm

  9. Interesting. I saw My Cousin Vinny as a teenager. I’ll have to rewatch it sometime, because since then I’ve served on a jury, and been struck by how unlike real courtroom proceedings were to the typical TV and movie tropes.

    I see that among the many items that My Cousin Vinny depicted realistically is that the judge was white, in contrast to the Hollywood requirement of the past 20 years or so that every judge be black.


    March 13, 2017 at EDT pm

  10. Too expensive to make sure things are close to the real world, plus the majority of consumers don’t care/understand what the reality is.

    Writers are taught to aim for “verisimilitude”, which is obviously subjective per writer, not reality, and is what most people would believe the reality to be. [and given the money these products make, consumers clearly prefer verisimilitude over reality]


    March 13, 2017 at EDT pm

  11. I got around the paywall by finding the article link on Facebook and clicking through it there.


    March 13, 2017 at EDT pm

  12. Incidentally, why was Marisa Tomei sexier jn her Seinfeld cameo than she was in MCV?

    Mel Belli

    March 13, 2017 at EDT pm

  13. And I agree that My Cousin Vinny is more accurate than 98% of any other movies about courtroom proceedings. As Vinny would say, anything that happens in a courtroom in any other lawyer movie is bullshit.


    March 13, 2017 at EDT pm

  14. Did you ever see A Time to Kill? That’s a pretty good lawyer movie.

    Two in the Bush

    March 13, 2017 at EDT pm

  15. What happens in most criminal trials in state court is that the prosecutor gets away with all sorts of shenanigans because the judge is intimidated by the possibility that the D.A’s office will get behind the juydge’s opponent in the next election. The last thing a judge wants to do is return to law practice, so they mind their manners. An extreme example of this occurred with a judge I worked for in a famously tough jurisdiction. It was a child abuse prosecution and thee judge, a real nice guy who went to a top-8 law school (though at a time when anyone with a B average was admitted), let the proseecutor run wild, referring in closing argument to all sorts of “evudence” thgat was never introduced. About six years later, this resulted in the longest appellate opinion in Califkrnia history, around 400 pages. And here’s something really weird: on the day the reversal was announced, the apponted lawyer who won it was shot dead by a crackhead, because he didn’t have 5 bucks on him.


    March 13, 2017 at EDT pm

  16. Nearly all other movies depicting legal actions are complete BS and consequently I find them unwatchable.

    Nonsense. In reality you have always dreamed of being Perry Mason.

    The Undiscovered Jew

    March 13, 2017 at EDT pm

  17. Nearly all other movies depicting legal actions are complete BS and consequently I find them unwatchable.

    Like when I was watching an old X-Files episode recently and the doctor shocked asystole. Sheesh.

    I’m curious what’s objectionable about A Few God Men. I’m sure you’re right that it’s completely legally inaccurate, but still a fine movie!

    SJ, Esquire (formerly Samson J)

    March 14, 2017 at EDT am

  18. the reality is that outside of the legal profession it was only a middling success.

    Vinny has had a very good shelf life though. No one watches or talks about Erin Brockovich these days, and people remember A Few Good Men only for the famous “You can’t handle the truth” monologue.

    Peter Akuleyev

    March 14, 2017 at EDT am

    • People keep remaking “Witness for the Prosecution” – so that is good too. Fred Gwynne rocked in the Munsters and in the Littlest Angel.

      howitzer daniel

      March 14, 2017 at EDT pm

  19. Every judge should ask himself/herself, “What would Chamberlain Haller do?” That man was incapable of taking shit.


    March 14, 2017 at EDT am

  20. I did find a way around the WSJ paywall. Windows 10 has a news app and I can select the WSJ through the app as a source and pull up articles by name through the search feature.

    Mike Street Station

    March 14, 2017 at EDT am

    • I did find a way around the WSJ paywall.

      I just use the username and password associated w/my employer’s WSJ subscription.

      Smartest Woman on the Internet

      March 14, 2017 at EDT pm

  21. A Few Good Men depicted the military with the same accuracy as it depicted legal proceedings, so at least it was consistent.


    March 14, 2017 at EDT pm

  22. One of my all-time favorites. I’m not a lawyer, but the legal stuff seems realistic to me. Fred Gwynne is great as the stern but fair judge, and Merisa Tomei won an Oscar for best supporting actress as Mona Lisa Vito, the world’s greatest expert witness. The underlying theme is the culture clash between novice NY attorney Vinnie (and his girlfriend) and the Southerners who make up the rest of the cast. However, in the end, after Vinnie wins an acquittal, both judge and prosecutor congratulate him on his brilliant defense and invite him to set up a legal practice in their town. High praise indeed!

    I saw the movie when it first came out and loved it. Recently I bought a copy from the discount bin at WalMart for $5, so I’ll have the pleasure of watching it again.

    Black Death

    March 14, 2017 at EDT pm

  23. I’ve enjoyed a couple of local playhouse renditions of “Twelve Angry Men.” On the other hand, back in the late ’80s, I was hooked on LA Law. But what do I know about law, I dropped out of New England School of Law in 1988 after one year in the night program.

    E. Rekshun

    March 14, 2017 at EDT pm

  24. Yeah, that need for accuracy is all over Hollywood, but you missed the mark here. Legal proceedings are duller than weddings. Accurate portrayals of law would bomb out every theater outside of maybe Brooklyn where the Legal Eagles all have families. My Cousin Vinny may have an accurate portrayal of the trial, but there isn’t a single character in that money you wouldn’t greet with a shotgun if they came to your house. OK maybe not Fred Gwynne, but its because we all love Herman Munster.
    People still cannot believe that Marisa Tomei got the brass dildo for that trampy low class role. She’s a damn fine actress, but this is the dumbest and lamest role she ever played. Joe Pesci might have been nothing but the annoying guy in Lethal Weapons movies if he didn’t play in this though. The courtroom scenes might ring true, but the rest of it is the kind of over the top melodrama you would expect from Hollywood. Pesci hams it up enough to offend Mohammed.

    Joshua Sinistar

    March 17, 2017 at EDT pm

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