Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan return to the screen to try to ignite some R-rated sparks in this Friday’s Fifty Shades Freed, the concluding chapter of the trilogy based on the books by author E.L. James. Given the general lack of chemistry shared by the two stars in their prior two outings, hopes haven’t been sky-high that this latest franchise installment would set pulses racing, and now that the first critical write-ups have appeared online, it appears such suspicions were correct. Ahead of next Wednesday’s Valentine’s Day, moviegoers in the mood for something romantic and steamy will no doubt head to theaters in droves to see how things turn out for Mr. and Mrs. Grey. However, as our review roundup makes clear (save for a solitary dissenting voice), they shouldn’t hold their breath for something truly exhilarating.
Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter
Closing the book on what’s arguably one of the worst film franchises in recent memory, Fifty Shades Freed doesn’t quite end with the bang one would hope for. … In terms of drama, or melodrama, or just bad drama, Freed rarely delivers the goods while trying hard to give fans what they came for: more visits to the “playroom” for some lightweight sadomasochism, more eye-rolling plot mechanics involving Christian Grey’s troubled past, more reactionary views on love and marriage, more money shots of sports cars, private jets and vacation homes that only the 1 percent can afford, and more attempts to turn what may be one of the duller couples to ever grace the screen into two captivating characters. For good measure, the filmmakers also toss in a butt plug. Seriously, is this the best we can offer adults who don’t want to watch Marvel movies?
Anna Hartley, TheWrap
Fifty Shades Freed is being sold as the sexiest, most explosive of the series (“Don’t miss the climax,” pleads the tagline), but for the third time the film fails to capitalize on what made the books such runaway successes in the first place: the sex. At this point we’ve been in and out of the red room so often that it’s completely lost its intrigue (Ana even manages to catch 40 winks in there), and the sex scenes feel more like an afterthought, inserted to remind us of the reason the series became such a phenomenon.
Guy Lodge, Variety
This is brochure cinema of the most profuse order, selling its audience more on a lifestyle than on any of the lives inside it. What began, however glossily, as an ambiguity-laced power struggle between two people from separate social and sexual worlds has devolved into a far less intriguing victory lap for an exquisite couple that wants, and can afford, most of the same things — at least until the pesky matter of baby-making gets in the way.
Ben Croll, Screen International
Over the three films, stars Johnson and Dornan have never once set the screen ablaze with much shared chemistry, and so it makes sense for most of their stodgy interactions to eventually transform into canvases for bare flesh, pop music and D.P. John Schwartzman’s glossy lighting schemes. However that Super Bowl Ad approach is less effective when Fifty Shades Freed tries to hit other registers, such as an early car chase that mystifyingly plays like an expensive commercial for Audi set to the music of an up-and-coming Universal-signed group. Though robbing the film of any of the conventional, propulsive benefits of an action sequence, the chase does speak to the franchise’s guiding principle, where softcore skin has always ranked second to wealth porn.
Manuela Lazic, Indiewire
At this point, who would have thought that a Fifty Shades film, supposedly interested in the very alternative kind of sexual experimentation, would provide enjoyable (and maybe for some, even exciting) sequences of respectful and playful foreplay and oral sex? Even more surprising: how this lighter approach to sexual intercourse seems to lift the spirits of the characters along with the tone.
Meanwhile, over on Rotten Tomatoes, Fifty Shades Freed limps in with a 17 percent “rotten” rating (at the time of this posting), ranking behind only Winchester for the dubious distinction of the year’s worst-reviewed studio movie.
Fifty Shades Freed arrives in theaters on Friday. Consider yourselves warned.