The first movie was better than expected. The second edition -- a soap opera punctuated with soft-core porn -- is precisely what I expected, a silly helping of romance which seems bound to make titillated audiences giggle.
Once again, Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) hooks up with Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). Just in case she didn't learn enough about Christian's sadistic proclivities the first time around, Anastasia returns for a second helping.
Despite attracting the attention of her publishing company boss (Eric Johnson), she seems intent on testing the reformation that Christian claims to have undergone. He wants Anastasia more than he wants his S&M playthings -- up to a point. At least, he'll try to stay on track.
Hey, breaking habits isn't easy. Besides, what to do with all that kinky paraphernalia? Does Good Will accept nipple clips?
History aside, Christian seems a better bet than Anastasia's boss, who turns out to be a bit of a sleaze.
Anastasia doesn't seem to know what's obvious to viewers in the first five minutes. She loves this rich guy who has a special red room in his Seattle apartment. That's where he inflicts pain on women who -- ready for some psychology? -- represent the poor guy's crack addicted biological mother. She neglected him. He gets off on punishing others.
Christian's idea of commitment includes lots of oral sex and a semi-humorous bit involving small balls inserted in Anastasia's ... well .... you know. Which orifice did you guess? Still, we're supposed to believe he's trying to fight his baser impulses. He really wants his relationship with Anastasia to work, even though he can't entirely curb his possessiveness and jealousy.
Besides, Anastasia's into some of the more adventurous sex play. Turns out she likes a kink or two, so long as it doesn't tip into sadism.
The hapless supporting cast includes Rita Ora as Christian's sister Mia, and Marcia Gay Harden as Christian's adoptive mother. She hopes her son will find something resembling a normal life with Anastasia.
Kim Basinger shows up as Elena, the older woman who jealously guards what's left of her former relationship with Christian, who -- as I mentioned -- tries to behave himself.
Occasionally, another of Christian's former lovers (Bella Heathcote) -- a young woman gone creepy -- turns up to lend an air of mystery. A helicopter crash is inserted awkwardly into the proceedings.
Director James Foley takes over the helm, and does his best to give a high-gloss treatment to low-rent material.
For all its attempts at eroticism, the movie is aggressively uninteresting, a problem that's not helped by Dornan's lifeless performance and what seems like Anastasia's bubble-headed approach to everything.
Oh wait. I forgot. She's smart. She's read Austen and Bronte.
There's another Fifty Shades on tap, so if you're addicted to the E.L. James' stories, you'll have more chances to immerse yourself in the romantic falderal as Christian fights his worst impulses, the smitten Anastasia devotes herself to love, and dark forces threaten the couple's happiness.
Meanwhile, this edition of Fifty Shades Darker arrives in time for Valentine's Day, prompting only one question. Whatever happened to the simple, old-fashioned box of chocolates?