“The Godfather Part II”: Better Than Baby Class

An Amazon gift card from my sister turned into four awesome Blu Rays: “The Godfather,” “The Godfather Part II,” “Gladiator,” and “There Will Be Blood.” Thanks, Little Sister.

As I’ve mentioned here before, my wife and I are expecting our first baby soon, impairing my ability to survive a near-future apocalyptic event. When the zombies come you don’t want an anchor like a small child. So I gotta hope End Times hold off long enough that the kid grows from chubby hindrance who can’t hold its head up into an athletic sidekick who drives well and maybe shoots a gun with decent aim (if I do schoolin’ righte).

What was I. . . ? Oh yeah, “The Godfather, Part II.” Like any worthy lesson, this one is simple.

Be good or be evil. Be Vito or be Michael.

“A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man,” Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone told his son Michael in “Part I.” We see in Vito’s younger self that ideal carried through. The first time we meet Robert DeNiro’s “Part II” Vito (the flashback scenes), he’s at a play with his friend who’s got goo-goo eyes for the female lead. Isn’t she beautiful? the friend asks Vito (in Italian). Yeah, Vito says, “To you, she’s beautiful. For me, there’s only my wife and son.”

This is a quiet, gentle soul. He’s saying out loud how much he loves his wife and family, and we’ll see proof throughout the film. He looks on helplessly and anxiously as baby Fredo cries his little brains out with sickness. He holds baby Michael up to the train window and waves his little arm “Goodbye” to the people outside. He steals a rug for baby Sonny. He cradles baby Michael later and says “Michael, your father loves you very much.” (He’s just killed Don Fanucci, The Black Hand.)

Michael becomes evil, no love in his black heart for anything. Is it because his true love, Apollonia, was car bombed after their wedding? Did killing Sollozzo and McCluskey in the restaurant snap something, chemistry-wise, in his brain?

This is what he gets from his wife, and it’s nuts: “It was an abortion. An abortion, Michael. Just like this marriage is an abortion—something that’s evil, and unholy. I didn’t want your son, Michael. I wouldn’t bring another one of your sons into this world. It was an abortion, Michael! It was a son, and I had it killed because this must all end!”

Al Pacino plays Michael like he’s playing the Devil, and nails it. Legend proclaims the filmmakers didn’t decide Michael would kill Fredo until right before it was time to film that scene. I don’t believe it. I think Coppola and Mario Puzo (they wrote the script together) always knew Fredo would die because it was the most evil outcome, by far.

“Every time I put the line in the water I said a Hail Mary, and every time I said a Hail Mary I caught a fish.” Poor bastard.

Vito prioritized his family; Michael murdered his. Vito built an empire he handed to Michael, who ruled like a heartless mad king.

Each man had a choice when it came to his kids. Vito chose to be a caring, loving husband and father. Michael chose to treat his son, and his doomed unborn son, like prospective employees. It was after Christmas when Michael got back from Miami, and he had this exchange with his lawyer, Tom Hagen:

Michael: What about my boy, did you get him something for Christmas?

Tom: I took care of it.

Michael: What was it so I’ll know.

Tom: Well, it was a little car with an electric motor that he can ride in. It’s nice.

Jesus. Come on! “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.” Your father told you, dude. He also talked about not wanting to be a puppet on strings, but that was more of an abstract notion. The family thing? Spending time with them? That was real advice. He wasn’t saying it just to say it.

Vito’s killing of The Black Hand is so precise he can’t ever get caught. But the neighborhood knows. Vito was helping his community when he shot Don Fanucci in that hallway. Michael’s murders don’t help anyone, not even himself. He just kills because he’s a dick. He should have decided to be a good dad. Things would have worked out much better.

Don’t be Michael. Be Vito. That simple.

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