Bottom Line: A virtually insignificant conclusion to the saga.
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Al Pacino, Andy Garcia, Bridget Fonda, Diane Keaton, Ellie Wallach, George Hamilton, Joe Mantegna, Raf Vallone, Sofia Coppola, Talia Shire
After two incontrovertibly classic crime films, THE GODFATHER PART III is a major disappointment, heavily plagued by the “threequel effect”. I’m referring to the syndrome that left marks on films such BACK TO THE FUTURE: PART III, DIE HARD: WITH A VENGEANCE, BATMAN FOREVER, and PSYCHO III. Out of all those, though, this film must be the biggest drop in its series. In the simplest of terms, this third entry transforms what was previously a heavy-headed crime drama with touches of family, into a lighthearted family drama with touches of crime.
THE GODFATHER PART III seems to break away from almost every aspect that made its two predecessors so wonderful. Now I’m not one of the many, many–many–fans who hates the film due to Sofia Coppola’s appearance and amateurish performance. She gives the film a few careless blows to its face, as well, but overall, just her supporting performance could not simply ruin the entire film for me. I dislike the film for what it is. Sixteen years does to the series as much as it does to the actors. This 1990 conclusion to the series should have been called The Godfather: The Next Generation. We hardly recognize key performers such as Al Pacino, Talia Shire, and Diane Keaton because they’ve aged so much since 1974’s THE GODFATHER PART II. Al Pacino is the biggest “Is that really him?” head-scratcher, as he’s shrunken and changed his haircut greatly since the previous entry. The film also feels desire to focus a bit more on–as mentioned–the next generation. Sofia Coppola (here she is!) portrays the obnoxiously perky Mary Corleone, the daughter of Michael. There is far to much focus on her character’s love life with her first cousin (and she’s supposedly the good one of the family?). Let’s look at the bright side: the original casting choice was Julia Roberts. Had Roberts been playing Mary Corleone, director Francis Ford Coppola would have no control of how much of small romantic comedies her scenes would be.
As the third and final film in the series, THE GODFATHER PART III closes the story of Don Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) and his attempts to improve his Sicilian Mafia empire, during the late 1970s and early 1980s. As what director Francis Ford Coppola claims is the “epilogue” to a two-part series, the film is pretty disoriented. Not until the final half an hour in this near-three-hour does this feel like a true epilogue. The majority of the film seems like a continuation on the story presented in the first two films, not a conclusion. It also feels like an introduction of newer, younger characters, as if a method to transition the film into an updated saga. Again, The Godfather: The Next Generation.
THE GODFATHER PART III wasn’t terrible in every respect. The film-noir-esque cinematography, the memorable score***, and the tastefully presented violence are all reprised here. But with newly boring characters, a weaker script, and a seemingly upbeat mood (at least by comparative standards), the film fails horrifically. Goodbye, Corleones.
***Apparently, the orchestra in one of the party scenes had watched one of the previous Godfather movies, because they knew how to play the theme music.