I really don’t have a problem with new sequels to old movies, as long as they make a worthwhile addition to the story previously established in the franchise. “The Godfather: Part III” doesn’t do that. At the end of “The Godfather: Part II” we are left with the impression that Michael will spend the rest of his days in isolated regret. At the end of “The Godfather: Part III” we see that Micheal, well, is spending the rest of his days in isolated regret. Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola thought they were giving fans a special dessert with this installment, when all they were doing is reheating the previous cinematic entree.
Al Pacino reprises his role as Michael Corleone, now trying to absolve himself of all gangster ties through charitable donations and do-goodery. He’s still estranged from his former lover Kay (Diane Keaton), now much closer with his only living sibling Connie (Talia Shire), and has loving but peculiar relationships with his son Anthony and daughter Mary (played terribly by Sofia Coppola, who is really wonderful at everything else she does in life, though). While murder is no longer in his repertoire, Michael is at the center of everyone’s lives, kind of like how Vito was, but nobody likes Michael nearly as much
Except for Vincent Mancini, Michael’s nephew who is really into the whole organized crime/mass murder side of the family. Played by Andy Garcia, Mancini is like an orange-peeled amalgam of all the Corleone kids. He’s got Sonny’s assertiveness, Michael’s cool charm, Connie’s love for family and Fredo’s love for blondes. Much of the film focuses on the transference of power between Michael and Vincent, as well as a pretty intriguing, deadly subplot about the Vatican bank.
But then then there’s another subplot where Vincent and Mary become romantically involved. This feels very weird and uncomfortable to watch as there’s no chemistry between Garcia and Coppola and also because their characters ARE FUCKING COUSINS! WHY IS THIS EVEN PART OF THE MOVIE? If it’s to introduce a “forbidden fruit” aspect into Vincent’s life, then why does Vincent get away with hooking up with her? If it’s to give Mary something to do throughout the film, why put her into situations where every scene she’s in feels gross? Whatever the point is, it’s executed poorly
It’s baffling, and shows how “The Godfather: Part III” treads water between unnecessary but enjoyable sequel to cash grab, sitcom reunion special. The scenes with Michael and Kay in Italy feel like a gem, like closure to a storytelling wound we didn’t realize was there. But the pantyhose and helicopter assassination attempts feel more reminiscent of “Lethal Weapon” or “Law and Order,” where if Vito Corleone was alive to see it, he’d then walk away in silent disgust. After a scene where Michael confesses his sins to a random priest, Connie says to him “you’d never do that,” and she’s totally right. It’s something Michael would never do, and something that feels so wrong.
This “Godfather” came out in 1990, decades before the sequel-saturated box office environment we find ourselves in today. In a way, it’s a great thing “Part III” came out when it did, giving Hollywood a firm reason not to make a sequel to it ever again. But it really is just an epilogue of the second film and not enough of its own thing. Ironically, this entire franchise is about the puppet strings that control our fate. “Part III” got choked up in its own strings before it even got a chance to breathe.