Peter Carellini’s review published on Letterboxd:
The first Godfather, to me, is like the construction of a great, epic cake. The process is interesting, if not intriguing at times, but the whole affair is more glossy than it is powerful. Nonetheless, it's an expertly crafted affair. Now The Godfather Part II, is what happens when you eat that cake. Much more raw and humane, as painful as it is enjoyable, but still a beautiful event. This one surpasses the first in every way imaginable.
By deftly combining the dual stories of Vito's rise to power (abound with a sense of moral integrity) and Michael's rise to power (abound with a sense of moral corruption), the movie goes from a familial saga to a historical portrait of both crime in America and the promise and potential consequences of the American Dream. Every bit of acting talent that is (in my opinion) quite subdued in the first film is let loose here, from Pacino's slowly growing monster in Michael to Duvall's tired, questioning Tom Hagen. The newcomers - namely De Niro - only enhance the world of the Corleones without ever overshadowing it. And let's not forget John Cazale's powerhouse performance as Fredo. Pitiable, pathetic, flawed, and a byproduct of all that is truly wrong with his family's history, Fredo is the story's beating heart while Michael simultaneously deadens it. There is not one imperfect emotional beat on display here. That scene with him and Michael in the boathouse is one of my all time favorites.
It's shot like a beautiful, classic painting of old time America, which only helps to suck the viewer in more. It's literally a globetrotting epic: Italy, Cuba, Nevada are all visited. It should be a mess, but Coppola's deft control of the camera and action streamline things fantastically. By progressing naturally from the first film, presenting new consequences from old problems and unafraid to go to the darkest corners, this is not only a fantastic sequel, but a gripping portrait all on its own. The definitive telling of the romantic criminal.
Now I made myself hungry. I'm gonna go eat some cake.