My Cousin Vinny

The Book Series




Vinny and Lisa have returned to star in a new series of comic thrillers. Our wildly inappropriate attorney and his hot-blooded fiancée will star in a new series of comic thrillers with Lisa leading the investigation and Vinny in charge of litigation.

My Cousin Vinny has always been my favorite film comedy, the one that made me late for appointments if it popped up on the TV when I should’ve been walking out the door. If you're on this page I’m guessing it’s one of your favorites as well. I’ve met very few people, who didn’t remember it with great fondness.

Am I sure?
Yeah! I'm pos-i-tive!

Warm regards,
Larry Kelter

Standard Of Review: Vinny Gambini, Of ‘My Cousin’ Fame, Is Back In Brooklyn. This sequel to the classic 1992 film is fast-moving and fun.

The 1992 film My Cousin Vinny is undoubtedly a classic work of legal entertainment. It manages the twin feats of being extremely funny while telling a compelling story about a murder trial. In this sequel-happy world (where somehow there have been five Transformers films to date), it is somewhat surprising that there has never been a sequel. Part of the problem may be that while Marisa Tomei remains a prolific actress, co-star Joe Pesci has barely acted since 1998 (only in The Good Shepherd and something called Love Ranch). Undeterred, author Lawrence Kelter (not the original screenwriter of the film) has written such an (authorized) sequel in novel form – Back to Brooklyn.

Back to Brooklyn kicks off right where My Cousin Vinny left off, with Vinny Gambini and Lisa Vito in the car on the way back from Alabama to New York City (although somewhat oddly, the novel takes place in current day even though the movie takes place in 1992; the book contains modern references like Mad Max: Fury Road and Scarlett Johansson). After some misadventures on the journey home, Vinny returns to Brooklyn to begin his law practice.

Almost immediately, despite having only one case worth of experience, Vinny quickly becomes flush with matters, partially through the help of his mentor Judge Malloy. Vinny defends a man accused of writing bad checks but who suffers from dissociative identity disorder (basically the movie Split if James McAvoy’s character was way more boring). Vinny represents a pimp who injures himself in a slip and fall. And most importantly, Vinny is hired to defend Theresa Cototi, whose boyfriend Sammy Cipriani, a recently discharged prisoner, fell off a building and died. While the death is initially ruled a suicide, Theresa is quickly charged with murder, possibly due to political pressure from her boyfriend’s brother Anthony, who is the deputy mayor.

Despite the fact that Kelter was not the original screenwriter of the film, he does a great job of finding Vinny and Lisa’s voices, which is always a difficult task when someone new takes over a work of entertainment (for example, the “gas leak” season of Community). I found myself reading the lines of dialogue in my head with Pesci and Tomei’s voices, and nothing seemed askew. That being said, Kelter does occasionally lean too much on some of the more notable jokes in the film. For example, there are countless jokes involving characters misunderstanding Vinny or Vinny misunderstanding other characters, such as Vinny repeatedly thinking that a Detective named Parikh is a prank caller named “Detective Prick,” or Vinny’s brother Joe thinking that Vinny says “sponged” when he actually says “expunged.” While the “these two youths/yutes” joke from My Cousin Vinny is a classic, the numerous word misunderstandings in Back to Brooklyn are too repetitive and get a little old. And part of the charm of the “youths” joke in the film is that Vinny is a fish out of water in Alabama, but that does not quite work the same when Vinny is in his home city. Also, on the way back from Alabama, Vinny lectures an Alabaman about gun control; while I agree with Vinny, this speech is a little out of character.

Despite the fact that Vinny gets a shockingly high number of cases in his first few days back from Alabama, Back to Brooklyn effectively shows the life of a solo practitioner, bouncing from one case to the next. In one notable scene, Vinny almost gets in hot water when court appearances in two different cases are scheduled for 9:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Furthermore, the book explores the fact that even though Vinny is ostensibly a successful lawyer given his acquittal rate, he still has barely earned any money from the practice.

The plot itself moves fast. Readers will surely never be bored and should be able to get through the novel very quickly. Kelter does an admirable job of having the various storylines coalesce at the end of the novel (though there are some twists that you will likely see coming). Despite the book’s short length, there are some minor storylines that probably could have been cut, such as one of Lisa’s friends becoming pregnant after having an affair.

Back to Brooklyn does not reinvent the wheel, but is an enjoyable read that (mostly) stays true to two beloved characters. And now that Pesci might actually be coming out of semi-retirement, maybe there is hope for that film sequel after all.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book.