'Fifty Shades Freed' marks low point for series (MOVIE REVIEW)

TUCSON, Ariz. - If "Fifty Shades Freed" succeeds in any way, it's as a halfway decent unintentional comedy. As a romance, soft-core porn and, gulp, action movie, it's a bland, limp failure.

Robbed of any sense of longing or mystery of the first two films, the wrap-up to the trilogy struggles with the sadomasochistic Romeo and Juliet dealing with that deadliest of dramatic enemies: Domestic bliss. Having worked out most of Christian's psychological issues and Anastasia's abandonment fears, all that's left to shake things up are laughably bizarre sex scenes and insipidly filmed action sequences.

The issue that's always dogged these movies is the disconnect between the mental visions that could be inspired by the written word and the deflating translation of those fantasies into onscreen reality, exposed for how silly they are. 

The plot material has grown so threadbare that Christian (Jamie Dornan) has turned his famous smoldering jealousy toward... an imaginary baby? Yup, on multiple occasions he whines to Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) that he's worried a baby they might one day have will take all her attention away from him.

What is Christian, a toddler? His behavior is more suited to the star of a children's book like "What to Expect When Mommy's Having a Baby" rather than an erotic thriller.

When Christian drops the leering sex act and tries to be romantic -- singing a love song as he plays the piano -- things move even more firmly into facepalm mode. Anastasia's tangles with a stalker lead to a car chase and gunfight that make the movie more like "Fifty Shades Freed-Dumb."

Anastasia's safe word during her hot-heavy bondage encounters is "red." If only audiences could stop the horrors by shouting "red" at the screen.

Then again, those parts of the movie are no more ludicrous than the film's attempts at getting sexy. More wince-inducing than arousing, the Christian-Anastasia sexcapades are increasingly uncomfortable and gross. The film cruises at shark-jumping altitude once it has Anastasia lick melted ice cream off Christian's abs.

The problem that's always dogged these movies is the disconnect between the mental heat that could be stoked by the written word and the deflating translation of those fantasies into onscreen reality, exposed for how silly they are.

An end-film montage of Christian and Anastasia's breathless encounters from the first two movies is more depressing than wistful. Did we really waste all that time watching this junk? At least "Fifty Shades Freed" finally grants audiences sweet release from its horrors.

RATING: 1 stars out of 4.

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