Fifty Shades Darker

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If its predecessor was the relatively tasty but soggy crust then the sequel is the charred-black glob of cheese atop of the grilled sandwich.

The middle chapter in E.L James’ ode to KY Jelly trilogy features more padding than a Triangle bra and worse direction than a Steve Bannon brief as the convoluted, head-scratcher of a romance between Richie Rich and Rory Gilmore drives into overtime.

“Previously on Twilight with Titties…” the naïve, constantly-damp and rather foolish Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) finally decided she had enough of being billionaire beau Christian Grey’s (Jamie Dornan) whipping, er, girl. And before you could overlay a Top 40 pop tune to play over some stylish end credits, she’d walked out of his life – seemingly onto smarter pastures.

Within ten minutes of the sequel, the unfortunately titled (not because it sounds like the result of bad Mexican food but because there’s nothing ‘Darker’ about it) “Fifty Shades Darker”, the duo are reunited and quickly pick up where they left off in their troubled sex-before-substance relationship. Hurdles this time aren’t so much of the do-you-mind-this-up-your-clacker variety but of jealous colleagues (Eric Johnson playing Steele’s unstable boss), cracked, sex-god lovers of the past (Kim Basinger, seemingly cast because of her association with similar-themed ‘80s classic ‘’Nine-and-a-Half-Weeks’’), and a mysterious, clearly troubled young woman (Bella Heathcote) that creepily appears in front of Steele in the oddest of places. But, as we all know, licking conquers all.

Since they’ve got to stretch the thin concept out another movie, “Darker” is in no hurry to provide much in the way of an explanation or any answers for any of the meekly interesting questions and scenarios it sets up here. It’s also not interested in giving us anything too deep or cutting – aiming to be no more than something you might find on the softporn thriller shelf at Blockbuster in the Clinton-era.

It’s almost ironic that Steele (Dakota Johnson) insists on a “vanilla” relationship (not that that lasts for long, the whips come out near as soon as the anal beads do) with Grey (Jamie Dornan) this time around, considering ‘’Fifty Shades Darker’’ is as plain as studio dramas get. With dialogue more wooden than the prize in Grey’s pants and the story playing out more like the deleted scenes component from the “Fifty Shades of Grey” DVD than the complex expose on sadism that the film could’ve been, one will surely conclude that the most memorable boobs on screen don’t belong to one of the leads but Universal, who shockingly put their name to the tits up.

As for what-you’re-coming-for? The only slick and energized moment in the film is a pants-on moment – because those sex scenes, which are about as hot as anything most of us did after the Year 12 dance in high school (yup, that hot) – in which our loony lovers take to the seas in a sail boat, with the sweet sounds of Taylor Swift & Zayn (though even that moment is a riff on the first film’s helicopter scene, which had Ellie Goulding player over it) promoting their latest hit over the pretty visuals.

Writer E.L James’ roots as a fan-fic author (“50 Shades” started out as a fan yarn featuring characters from the “Twilight” series of movies) were starting to poke through in the second book, and the feature adaptation does nothing to hide the soggy undied-spurred amateur hour. Her overtly soapy, sloppy, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink style of writing comes apart quicker than a bra link here. But where I think it’s gone wrong is in the absence of director Sam Taylor-Johnson (and to a lesser extent, writer Kelly Marcel) this time round. She was able to work magic with a lackluster script and not-all-that-appealing characters last time around by overshadowing the faults with a gorgeous production design and imaginatively structured ‘’kinky fuckery’’ scenes. Her replacement here, James Foley, is as useless as a busted condom. Its one thing to be able to capture someone’s gyrating hips through the lens of a cool Canon, it’s another to make it look sexy.

“Fifty Shades Darker”, you’ve been very, very bad; I want to spank the living shit out of you.