[Screen It]


(2018) (Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan) (R)

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Erotic Drama: A billionaire and his new bride, who are heavily into kinky sex, are threatened by a deranged man from both of their pasts.
Billionaire Christian Gray (JAMIE DORNAN) marries Anastasia Steele (DAKOTA JOHNSON) in a lavish ceremony attended by his mother and father, Grace and Carrick (MARCIA GAY HARDEN and ANDREW AIRLIE); his siblings Elliott (LUKE GRIMES) and Mia (RITA ORA); Elliott's girlfriend Kate (ELOISE MUMFORD); members of the Pacific Northwest's corporate elite; and, of course, the paparazzi.

But as Christian and Ana honeymoon in Paris, disgraced editor Jack Hyde (ERIC JOHNSON) is back in Seattle plotting their demise after having been fired by Christian and rejected sexually by Ana. He sets fire to the server room at Christian's company, steals personal files on Gray and his family, and ultimately plots two kidnappings. Christian hires extra security personnel in the form of Sawyer (BRANT DAUGHERTY) and Prescott (KIRSTEN ALTER) to protect his new wife.

Meanwhile, minor subplots abound. Ana has to put a flirty architect named Gia (ARIELLE KEBBEL) in her place. Elliott has to overcome his commitment phobia and pop the question to Kate. Ana forgets to take her birth control and has to tell Christian, who has already told her he wants to wait on starting a family. And the two continue to engage in kinky, sadomasochistic sex in their penthouse "Red Room" and elsewhere.

OUR TAKE: 2 out of 10
The third and final "Fifty Shades" movie has been screened and is now in theaters. Folks, I feel like I've been untied and let free! Yahoo! And guess what? I never submitted! Even while under constant abuse and punishment for two-hour intervals at a time, the people who made these films never broke me. No blindfolds! No safe words! I took it like a pro! And now the punished becomes the punisher.

Sorry if I'm a bit loopy here, dear readers. These flicks always bum me out, because 1) they make SO much money; 2) they're really terrible movies, and 3) I am always aware there are deeply talented writers and directors out there who can't catch a break in the Hollywood studio system even though they could make movies that are infinitely sexier and more provocative than these snooze-fests.

"Fifty Shades Freed" is moderately better than the other two installments in this franchise. But that's like picking between the different strains of the flu bug right now. Honestly, I'm not sure what this film had to do to get me to give it a positive review. I normally go into each flick with an open mind, because I really respect the tons of people involved in making a major motion picture. And there is a target audience for these movies that it is as passionate about these characters as the fan bases of Marvel, "Harry Potter," and "Star Wars" are. Full disclosure. About a third of the audience applauded at the end of my recent screening of "Fifty Shades Freed."

Now, I didn't take a poll afterward to see how many of them had been drinking. I kid, I kid. It's also interesting to note that in this age of renewed feminism, a large majority of the audience was women of all ages. The books ARE best-sellers and continue to be. And I know there is a certain naughty fantasy element here. All of that is well and good.

But the problems remain. The leads, Dakota Johnson's Anastasia Steele and Jamie Dornan's Christian Grey, are just deadly dull. I've never bought into their chemistry. And come on! If Christian ain't a billionaire, he would be few women's fantasy. He's controlling and petty. "Freed" softens him quite a bit. Pretty much every domineering act he commits towards Ana is done out of protecting her as an even creepier, worse dude (Eric Johnson's disgraced editor, Jack Hyde) is on the loose and stalking both of the newlyweds.

The plot, though, is basically thread-thin. Jack commits arson at Christian's company. Jack attacks Ana with a knife. Jack is arrested and let go on bail. Jack kidnaps Christian's sister and holds her for ransom. Ana confronts Jack with a gun. And that's all folks! In between are scenes of Christian and Ana having kinky sex, arguing, making up, jetting off to exotic locales, and having more kinky sex.

Maybe if the film had been punctuated by scenes of the supporting cast members having sex with each other, the erotic qualities of this film might have been there more for me. There are some much hotter men and women throughout cast in minor roles who basically orbit around Christian and Ana and carry their luggage who I'd much rather see hit the sheets.

But that's not this franchise. It's the Ana and Christian story. If you've thrilled to them through multiple books and movies thus far, you'll show up for this final installment. I make no judgments -- er, only on the film, that is. And that I judge to be a 2 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed February 7, 2018 / Posted February 9, 2018

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