Author Lawrence Kelter is attempting to provide the answer. The Brooklyn attorney obtained the rights and absolution from screenwriter Dale Launer, the Writers Guild, and 20th Century Fox to do a new novel based on the characters. The result is Back to Brooklyn (Down and Out Books) which updates the beloved characters from the film 25 years after their Alabama courtroom drama.
For the few who haven’t seen the original film, Pesci plays Vincent Gambini, a loudmouth New York attorney with a minor legal background who is called on to defend his cousin, accused of murder in rural Alabama. The inexperienced Gambini and gum-snapping girlfriend Mona Lisa Vito (Tomei, who won the best supporting actress Oscar for the role) arrive to help.
Pesci is unorthodox in his courtroom manners, but ultimately brilliant in his first criminal trial, helped along by Tomei’s encyclopedic knowledge of cars. They win dismissal of the charges for the cousin and newfound respect from the Southern judge (Fred Gwynne, in his last role before his death), who is initially astonished by Pesci’s demeanor, but finally comes around to admire his legal savvy.
According to the New York Post, Kelter, who wrote several well-received crime novels before his My Cousin Vinny update, reached out to Launer merely as a fan of the film. They hit it off and began a friendship that blossomed when Launer liked one of Kelter’s novels.
“He said, ‘Hey, you’re pretty funny.’ So I said, ‘How about I take a crack at Vinny and Lisa and move their life forward in a book series?’ ”
In the update, Vinny is working on a new murder case. This time, it’s set in his native Brooklyn. But domestic issues still plague him – he hasn’t married Lisa, and his career as an attorney really hasn’t taken wing, despite the Alabama triumph, leading to financial problems. Finally, he is hired to help a woman accused of killing her boyfriend, whose brother is the deputy mayor of New York City.
So far, the only My Cousin Vinny cast member to acknowledge the new work has been Ralph Macchio, who played cousin Bill Gambini in the film. Efforts to get Pesci or Tomei to provide a cover blurb haven’t been fruitful.