‘Fifty Shades Darker’ just more foreplay till next year’s climax

“Fifty Shades Darker,” in which billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and the once-innocent Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) continue to get into and out of as many designer duds as its two-hour running time will allow, is like the raunchiest book Dr. Seuss never wrote — only with significantly less plot.

They have sex in her bedroom and in his Red Room. They do it in showers and near some flowers. They fool around in an elevator and not far from a cater waiter.

At one point when she catches him by surprise, Christian declares, “Anastasia Steele, what am I going to do with you?” I’ll give you one guess what he chooses.

When last we saw Anastasia, she’d been inside Christian’s Red Room of Pain and discovered all its torture devices, including some that looked like relics from the Spanish Inquisition. “Show me how bad it can be,” she demanded. “I want you to show me the worst.” Christian then proceeded to smack her on her bottom six times with a belt, after which she wept and stormed out of his apartment and out of his life.

“Fifty Shades Darker” wastes little time bringing them back together.

“Look, I’m not very good at this,” Christian says while trying to regain her trust. “I’ve never wanted to try again.” (He could’ve stopped after that first sentence.)

“I want you back,” he continues. “I’d like to renegotiate terms.” (Just what every lady wants to hear.)

There’s a series of over-the-top dates — a masquerade ball, a day on his yacht, etc. — like something out of “The Bachelor: S&M Edition.” Elena (Kim Basinger), who first seduced a young Christian, and Leila (Bella Heathcote), one of his former submissives, show up to cause a bit of a ruckus. And Jack (Eric Johnson), Anna’s new boss during the movie’s detour into the thrill-a-minute world of independent publishing, glowers and gets too handsy with her.

That’s pretty much all that happens — aside from some of the least sexy sex you’ll ever witness — during the entirety of “Fifty Shades Darker.”

Remember how they split “Breaking Dawn,” the final “Twilight” book, into two movies, the first of which was mostly just Bella and Edward on their honeymoon? “Fifty Shades Darker” is like that — only with more bondage and less twinkling.

Director James Foley (“Glengarry Glen Ross”) and screenwriter Niall Leonard (“Fifty Shades” author E L James’ husband) provide a few laughs along the way. Some intentional. Most not.

But “Fifty Shades Darker,” like its predecessor, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” is all just a setup for the action that’s supposedly coming a year from now in “Fifty Shades Freed.”

Everyone involved could have saved so much time and energy — as well as dialogue like “Why didn’t you tell me that?” “I did. But you were asleep at the time.” — by charging triple the price for a ticket and combining all three books into one satisfying movie.

Or at least one as satisfying as the source material would allow.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com. On Twitter: @life_onthecouch.

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