A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Godfather: Part II is the classic 1974 crime drama centered on the rise of Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) and the power struggles faced by his son Michael (Al Pacino). Unsurprisingly, there's frequent violence. Characters are shot, stabbed, and strangled to death. The aftermath of a suicide in a bathtub is shown. In another scene, a sex worker is dead in a bed, handcuffed and covered in blood. Some profanity is heard, including "f--king," as well as racial and ethnic slurs, plus sexual innuendo concerning male genitalia. There's wine and champagne drinking at a lavish First Communion party, including a character who is visibly drunk, as well as cocktail drinking in nightclubs and cigarette and cigar smoking. Overall, this movie and the first Godfather are defining classics of the Mafia genre, and their influence on later mob films and pop culture reverberates years after they were released.
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What's the story?
Using flashbacks and scenes set in the film's present day, THE GODFATHER: PART II brilliantly relates the tale of Vito Corleone's (Robert De Niro) transformation into Mafia don during the 1900s, and son Michael's (Al Pacino) reluctant takeover of the family business in the 1950s. Rather than simply glorifying the Mafia don's position, the sequel presents a man who is tortured by his title. Michael is pained watching his job tear his family apart. At one point, he asks his mother if his father had the same emotional issues. "How was his head?" he asks her. Unlike Tony of the Sopranos, Michael doesn't seek psychotherapy; instead, he uses violence and revenge to solve his problems. No one, including family members, dares cross him in his quest to build the family empire, as he won't tolerate the slightest bit of disloyalty.
Is it any good?
Superbly written storylines and amazing performances by the principal actors, including Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Diane Keaton, are why PART II is considered a cinematic masterpiece. It's often called the best of the Godfather trilogy. Given its presence in hip-hop and general pop culture, kids will want to see this film. Yet, due to violent content, parents might want to think twice before allowing them to do so.
The film has the unmistakable air of saga as it moves back and forth through time, juxtaposing Michael's emotional struggle with becoming a don to that of his father's seemingly effortless rise to power. In doing so, Francis Ford Coppola is able to maintain an amazing balance of powerful character-driven stories with the ruthless violence we expect from a gangster film.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Italian Americans are represented in the movie. Does the film provide an accurate portrayal of Italians in America? How might an Italian American view the film? Does it promote cultural stereotypes?
What does the movie reveal about the challenges faced by Italians upon arriving in America?
How does the movie tell two stories, and how do these two stories connect? What are the deeper themes explored in both stories?
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