‘The Many Saints of Newark’ fails to recapture the magic of ‘The Sopranos’

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(Photo courtesy of Warner Bros)
By William L.G. Stephens 

David Chase attempts to set up “The Sopranos” back story in 2 hours, what did you expect?

There is an argument to be made that “The Sopranos” is the greatest television series of all time. According to “Rolling Stone” magazine it’s number one.

With greatness comes 23 Emmy wins and a significant amount of controversy.

It’s been 14 years since the series finale of “The Sopranos” left us all uncertain of its anti-hero Tony Soprano’s fate. If you don’t know what I am referring to, then you probably have no desire to watch “The Many Saints of Newark.” Which begs the question, “who is this film for?”

 I would like to believe it’s for the late James Gandolfini’s son, Michael, who gets the opportunity to portray the character that so many people cheered for every Sunday for eight years. I can’t fathom the experience that must have been for him and it warms my heart that it got to happen.

Still, “The Many Saints of Newark” doesn’t answer any questions we had and while it’s nostalgic to see certain stories that were told throughout the series come to life, I’d like to bring you back to Season 6, episode 15 of “The Sopranos,” where Tony Soprano tells Paulie Gualtieri that “‘Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation.”

I was so intrigued to watch this movie for the simple reason that I wanted to connect the dots. The fact that many of the characters in “The Sopranos” were going to be portrayed as much younger versions of themselves made my mind go all over the place with how Chase would make an origin story.

While I admire Chase’s decision to make Dickie Moltisanti played by Alessandro Nivola the central character, instead of more obvious choices, the rest of the cast suffers the blowback of having little to zero development and it feels more like prominent characters in “The Sopranos” just end up being cameos by talented actors.

It all boils down to the truth, that what made “The Sopranos” so great was that the writers were able to tell a story over the course of 86 episodes, that’s roughly 86 hours of superior storytelling. Here they have two.

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