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Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) and Christian (Jamie Dornan) exchange vows in 'Fifty Shades Freed.' [Universal Pictures]

Movie review: All pain, no pleasure in new ‘Fifty Shades’

Fans of E.L. James’ love-and-bondage novels will recognize “red” as the safe word gullible Anastasia assigns when she enters the infamous BDSM “Playroom” escorted by the plasticized tycoon of kink, Christian Grey. Well, five minutes into the torturous “Fifty Shades Freed” I was the one crying “RED!” But no one would listen. It just persisted in its cruel assault for another 100 minutes, subjecting me to awful acting, terrible writing and the lamest direction since Tommy Wausau foisted “The Room” upon us. Oh, hi, Mawk!

Oh, hi? More like how high do you have to get to endure this drivel? I’d say a whole dimebag’s worth. Better to fry your brain that way then by subjecting your gray matter to Grey natter. Because “Freed” is the last installment of the trilogy, the story tries to throw in everything but sex on the kitchen sink. Wait! I think they did it there, too. Yes, Christian and Ana do it, do it all again, over and over: In the car, in the shower, in the family’s mountaintop lodge and in their hotel room on the Riviera. Ah, but this time (in the name of Mike Pence) they’re married, which I must point out is the only bondage in their relationship not involving handcuffs, shackles and Ben Wa balls.

They exchange their vows during the opening credits, with the officiant declaring them “man and wife” instead of the less sexist, “husband and wife.” But then no one ever accused the “Fifty Shades” pictures of being bastions of sexual equality. In this Seattle-set alternate universe, the man with all the money calls most of the shots; and the lowly book editor he marries dutifully obeys — except when it comes to changing her surname to Grey. In other words, Ana had better not get pregnant without his permission. And, of course, all contraceptive matters are her responsibility.

Who wrote this? Harvey Weinstein? No, would you believe Niall Leonard, the husband of E.L. James? Holy nepotism! But Leonard does his wife no favors in this outing or the last installment, “Fifty Shades Darker.” It’s a toss up who’s the better half. I’d say they both stink. But fans who’ve invested millions in James’ books and on movie tickets would beg to differ. And those people are who this film is for; not persnickety movie critics. So I feel foolish judging the “Fifty” pictures as art when they’re anything but art. They’re pure trash. But up until now, they were guilty-pleasure trash; a great source of unintentional laughs, like Christian defying the laws of gravity on his pommel horse in “Darker.”

This time, there’s not even that, as Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, the alter-egos of Christian and Ana, simply go through the motions, bored with a predictable scenario that grows more ridiculous as it progresses. And Leonard’s script is all over the place, more a discombobulated mashup of poorly connected plot twists than a coherent story. It starts with old buddy, Jack (Eric Johnson), reappearing on the scene seeking revenge against Ana for ruining his life with her accusations of sexual assault. His arc comes and goes, broken up by a series of petty fights between Christian and Ana over such scintillating topics as her email address and whether or not she should go topless on the beach. Riveting!

If there’s a through line, and I’m not sure there is one, it’s Ana and Christian adjusting to the give and take of married life. But they never address the question that intrigues me most: What will they do with the Playroom after they have kids? Will the brats be tied up and whipped, too? There’s talk of refurbishing a rundown mansion in the country, but James Foley, who also directed “Darker,” never returns to that story strand once introduced. Come to think of it, he does the same thing with other facets, like a marriage proposal between Ana’s BFF, Kate (Eloise Mumford), and Christian’s brother, Elliot (Luke Grimes), that’s totally forgotten after it’s made.

The only consistencies are Ana and Christian ending almost all their conversations by indulging in various (BORING!) sex acts; and, most importantly, a blatant bit of product placement by Audi, the car make just about everyone in the movie drives. The less said about a kidnapping involving Christian’s bubblehead sister, Mia (Rita Ora), the better, but suffice it to say, it’s the film’s lone unintentional joke that’s actually funny. Well, that’s true unless you count a line Ana utters on her honeymoon after observing that every women on the beach is bare-chested: “It’s boobs in Boobland,” she says. A more apt description for this movie — and this franchise — I cannot conjure. Just thank God it’s finally over.

“Fifty Shades Freed”

Cast includes Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Marcia Gay Harden and Eric Johnson.

(R for strong sexual content, nudity and language.)

Grade: D

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