If artfully done sexual tension is what you want, you’re better off watching “Working Girl.” “Fifty Shades Darker” isn’t going to give you much of anything, other than an urge to snicker. One star out of four.
And here we are, back again with Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in “Fifty Shades Darker” — or, as I like to call it, “Deeply Clueless Woman Meets Deeply Damaged Man, Round Two.” The movie, based on E.L. James’ stupefyingly dull novel, has precisely one surprising moment: in which Ana (Dakota Johnson), newly promoted to fiction editor at her Seattle publishing house (based on, apparently, her tendency to characterize authors as “amaaazing”), meets with her assistant. Suddenly, Ana recites a speech from “Working Girl” (a movie which — wink wink — starred Johnson’s mother, Melanie Griffith) and you wonder, initially, if she’s having some sort of delayed sex-induced stroke. And then you start hoping that Joan Cusack might show up, and then, well . . . check, please.
It’s never a good idea, in a bad movie, to remind viewers of a much better movie. Then again, it’s not a terribly good idea to base a movie on a book in which almost nothing happens for 500 pages, but that’s what we have here: Ana and Christian (Jamie Dornan, clearly having no fun at all) consummate their relationship, if that’s what you want to call it, in a variety of artfully lit rooms. Ana and Christian say words at each other (and, believe me, that’s exactly how James Foley directs it). Ana and Christian consummate some more, with accessories. Christian tells Ana that he is compelled to abuse women, because he is so very damaged, and then allows Ana to touch his chest and gives her a big diamond. All is forgiven! Love conquers all! Has anyone checked Ana for a pulse?
Meanwhile, a sweaty-looking guy scowls in the shadows — Ana’s spurned and evil boss, who has the extremely subtle name of Mr. Hyde — and one of Christian’s former “subs” (submissives, not sandwiches) lurks around Ana’s apartment looking like a “Twilight” extra. (She’s easily dispatched, though; would that all intruders were so passive.) Is there really one more movie in all this? Was this even a movie? Is it wrong that I snickered at the line “How did you make out with those manuscripts?” Excuse me while I go watch “Working Girl” again.
Movie Review ★
‘Fifty Shades Darker,’ with Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Kim Basinger, Marcia Gay Harden. Directed by James Foley, from a screenplay by Niall Leonard, based on the book by E.L. James. 118 minutes. Rated R for strong erotic sexual content, some graphic nudity, and language. Several theaters.