‘Fifty Shades Darker’ Review: 50 Reasons Why the Erotic Sequel Is ‘Totally Ridiculous’

The pain is real. There are moments in Fifty Shades Darker when you might care more about Anastasia Steele’s lipstick shade than her tortured romance with cold billionaire Christian Grey. Now here comes the pleasure: The sequel, once again starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, is more unintentionally hysterical than the original. In fact, some of the wooden line readings and melodramatic twists rank right up there with the gold standard of cinematic erotic camp, the one and only Showgirls. Consider this film as a ticket to two hours of blessedly brainless escapism, and, guaranteed, it will not be the biggest time suck of 2017. Us Weekly film critic Mara Reinstein lists 50 reasons why it's totally ridiculous.

1. The film begins with Anastasia and Christian still split up. Remember? The new college graduate and recent virgin just couldn’t handle her man and his wounded psyche and his Red Room of Pain. Hello, baggage! One quinoa salad later, she takes him back.

2. Anastasia’s raven hair color is the only non-milquetoast quality about her. She’s in her twenties and still whisper-talks like a sad, scared child.

3. … Yet Christian and Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), her new boss at a chic Seattle-based publishing house, have the hots for her. Another male friend exclusively uses photographs of her to decorate his art gallery. 

4. Christian decides to purchase the book company because “I’ve always wanted to move into publishing.” Nobody in the real world would admit this aloud.

5. Pop singer Rita Ora, reprising her role as Christian’s sister Mia, has more than one line of dialogue.

6. It takes this movie 118 minutes to wade through a soapy exposition that a Shonda Rimes drama could handle in 12.

7. Nipple clamps

Jamie Dornan Dakota Johnson Fifty Shades Darker
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in 'Fifty Shades Darker.' Doane Gregory/Universal Pictures

8. The S&M version of a Thigh Master that, frankly, just looks uncomfortable.

9. Christian whines that he has issues because his birth mom OD'd. He still has night terrors! 

10. As the “Mrs. Robinson” who apparently taught Christian everything he knows about sex ed, Kim Basinger skulks around in corners and bathrooms. This actress starred in 9½ Weeks, one of the most sultry movies ever. She deserves better than shared screen time with a soap dispenser.

11. “I was trying to be romantic, but you distracted me with your kinky f–kery.”

12. Christian lets Anastasia use lipstick to draw a circle around his chest so he can show her his boundaries on his body.

13. The lipstick “road map” does not smear under Christian’s white shirt. 

14. The lipstick “road map” is still visible on his chest days later when he takes a shower.

15. He takes a shower with Anastasia. But the shower seems awfully small considering the expansive marble tile in his bathroom. 

16. In his spare time, Christian takes off his shirt and does a plank pose off the side of a pommel horse in his private gym.

17. Christian keeps a pommel horse in his private gym.

18. Anastasia thinks this is totes normal.

19. Christian also has access to Anastasia’s bank account and drops $24,000 in there just for fun. At first, she’s understandably miffed that this guy has access to her private information. Instead of, say, calling Chase to report him, she takes off her bra.

20. Silver balls … Silver balls … It’s S&M time in the city. (And at a masquerade party.)

21. “I don’t know whether to worship at your feet or spank you.”

22. She actually replies “Spank me!”

23. Johnson and Dornan continue to engage in racy bedroom scenes without sharing a molecule of actual heat. Even though they’re both in the buff, the scenes are not sexy. 

24. Johnson had more believable chemistry with Rebel Wilson in last year’s underrated How to be Single. It’s on HBO all the time. Check it out. Harmless Sunday afternoon movie.

25. Anastasia gets a big promotion just because she comes up with a groundbreaking idea to market a fun book to girls in the 18 to 24 age demographic.

26. One of Christian’s exes (played by Bella Heathcote) stalks him. He shows Anastasia a case file on the subject. Then he shows Anastasia a case file on her. She takes off her bra. 

Bella Heathcote Dakota Johnson Fifty Shades Darker
Bella Heathcote and Dakota Johnson in 'Fifty Shades Darker.' Universal Pictures

27. There’s a little homage to Johnson’s mom, Melanie Griffith, and her signature movie, Working Girl. Kind of sweet! Except that a true American classic like Working Girl should in no way be associated with this shlockbuster. Leave Tess McGill alone!

28. Did I mention all the whisper-talking? It’s like season 1 of Felicity all over again.

29. More misusage of Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden.

30. A Hits 1–loaded soundtrack tailor-made for people longing to hear yet another version of Coldplay’s “The Scientist.” 

31. The Taylor Swift/Zayn Malik irresistible slow jam “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” is heard twice.

32. Anastasia and Christian shower with their clothes on. No matter how many millions Christian has in the bank, why waste money on an unnecessary dry-cleaning bill?

33. That time Christian let Anastasia steer his yacht!

34. Anastasia is the 301,492,413th girl who ever thought she could fix a guy.

35. “You don’t know what we have!”

36. She thinks about settling down with him even though she’s, what, six months out of college? Somebody please give this girl a subscription to Cosmo.

37. The whisper-talking. OK, done now.

38. The so-obvious-it’s-clichéd elevator seduction scene. 

Jamie Dornan Dakota Johnson Fifty Shades Darker
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan in 'Fifty Shades Darker.' Doane Gregory/Universal Pictures

39. There’s a scene in which Anastasia chitchats with Christian’s housekeeper. This is where an editor comes in super-handy.

40. Johnson’s bright red lipstick at Christian’s birthday party really is a scene-stealer.

41. Dornan is a talent, no doubt. But he’s stripped down to his most bland self as the enigmatic, ultra-controlling Christian. The tycoon may be fifty shades darker, but he has zero personality.

42. He’s not fifty shades darker, either. Maybe five. Tops.

43. When “Ana” sees the silver balls (see No. 20), she tells Christian, “you’re not putting those in my butt.” He finds a Plan B.

44. The masked ball sequence tries oh-so-very-hard to mimic the intrigue of Eyes Wide Shut. Johnson and Dornan are no Kidman and Cruise. And director James Foley (Perfect Stranger) is no Stanley Kubrick.

45. Christian’s wealth is extravagantly flaunted in every scene. (Ana even has her own chauffeur.) But the money just adds up to emotional emptiness on the screen. This is not an easy accomplishment.

46. “I’m not a dominant. I’m a sadist.”

47. Though Anastasia becomes more forward in the Red Room, she still seems apprehensive about her boyfriend’s BDSM tendencies. In that sense, not much has changed from 2015’s Fifty Shades of Grey — making the film all the more pointless. Her feelings need to be reconciled once and for all before the franchise ends.

48. Toward the end of the film, Christian’s life hangs in the balance.

49. This development is laughably un-suspenseful. Everybody knows a third movie is coming in 2018.

50. A third movie is coming is 2018.

(Fifty Shades Darker opens Friday, February 10.)

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