Years have passed since Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) succeeded to the leadership of the family. Never having wanted to be a mobster in the first places, he’s gradually moved almost entirely (and very successfully) into legitimate businesses, meanwhile making a name for himself by donating millions to charity. He loves his grown-up son and his daughter on the edge of womanhood and still carries a torch for ex-wife Kay (Diane Keaton). But events thwart his effort to leave organized crime behind for good.
His next big move is to acquire an old European real estate concern with ties to the Vatican Bank, which, he comes to realize not much ahead of the authorities, is something of an organized crime operation itself. Soon powerful enemies once again want to see him dead.
This film lacks the epic sweep of the previous two, taking place over a shorter span of time and involving a smaller cast of characters and a less-complex plot, and I think that’s one reason it’s commonly deemed the weakest of the three. Personally, I thought the first two films were decent but overrated and this one not so bad as I’d heard. After seeing it I read some reviews and discovered that a number of critics, including Roger Ebert, liked it as well.
One of the better things about it is Michael’s daughter Mary, a charming, pretty, and self-possessed young woman played by an actress I thought very well-cast, in part because rather than looking like just a standard-issue Hollywood starlet she has a distinctive great honker of a nose that detracts not at all from her good looks but makes her that much more credible as a real person. It wasn’t until I read the end credits that I realized she was Sofia Coppola, later known as a director in her own right as well as an actor.
From what I’ve read, she was a last-minute replacement in the role and had been nervous about taking it, given its importance and her lack of experience. Apparently she ended up having to re-dub something like a fifth of her lines because her accent sounded too Valley-girl in some scenes.
A lot of critics attacked her performance, and she even won the Razzie for the year’s Worst Supporting Actress. Maybe her realistic performance contrasted so much with the scenery-chewing of some others in the cast that the critics couldn’t tell she was acting. Or maybe her real mistake was being the director’s daughter.