Jamie Dornan  and Dakota Johnson star in  '50 Shades of Grey.'  The movie is expected to sweep the box office, but critics are panning it. (Photo: W magazine)

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson star in ’50 Shades of Grey.’ The movie is expected to sweep the box office, but critics are panning it. (Photo: W magazine)

“Fifty Shades of Grey,” hits theaters this weekend, but critics are rating the film in black or white terms. They either love it, or hate it, with most, so far, hating it. Still, the film is on track to win big at the box office.

After months of hype on the back of a best-selling novel, the erotic thriller has such momentum going into the weekend, nothing can stop it.

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The bad reviews, however, are piling up for the film adaptation of E.L. James’s bestselling trilogy, starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” might not be a good movie–O.K., it’s a terrible movie–but it might nonetheless be a movie that feels good to see, whether you squirm, or giggle, or roll your eyes, or just sit still and take your punishment,” writes A.O. Scott in the influential New York Times.

Apparently, theatergoers are seeing the farce in the movie’s whole premise. At the end of the movie, in what’s supposed to be a touching, emotional scene, much of the audience burst into laughter, Scott noted.

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Indeed, director Sam Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel may have faced an impossible task to stay true to the novel within the confines of an “R-rated” movie. Half the fans are bound to be disappointed.

The film premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and so far 38 critics large and small have weighed in on the picture, according to rottentomatoes, which tracks reviews. The film has scored a dismal 41 percent rating, which is solidly “rotten” territory.

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The movie may also may be suffering from a failure of unrealistically high expectations.

“We may have all been curious going in, but by the time the credits roll, there’s another question that springs to mind: Is that all there is?” wrote Associated Press critic Lindsey Bahr.

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Nonetheless, critics should be prepared to get steamrolled by the juggernaut that will see the film this weekend. Sales of advance tickets are in the millions, according to reports.

Although the majority of critics are panning the film, some are giving it a tepid thumbs up, mostly because of Dakota Johnson’s performance.

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Johnson is a true find: She’s so committed, she makes Ana’s every discovery – in or out of the bedroom – convincing,” writes New York Daily News critic Elizabeth Weitzman, who rushed out her positive review ahead of the media embargo.

Johnson, of course, plays Anastasia Steele, a graduate student in literature, who agrees to step in for a friend and interview Christian Grey, a young, aggressive business mogul.

Despite initial tension, there is an immediate sexual attraction that ultimately leads to Grey’s “Red Room of Pain.” It’s where he satisfies his tastes for bondage, domination and sadomasochism.

Anastasia agrees to submit to his will (he’s filthy rich right?) after he sweeps her off her feet, literally and figuratively, in his corporate helicopter, soaring glider and exotic sports car.

On it’s face, the premise seems preposterous; maybe that’s why the film drew guffaws from the audience.

But Weitzman gives credit to Taylor-Johnson and Marcel for stripping “the first book of its biggest flaws, while still honoring its essence.”

That’s right, this is the first of at least three, and maybe four movies, based on James’s trilogy.

“Maybe in future installments there will even be something that resembles a plot. For now, the entire movie is about as sexy as a root canal,” says the ever acerbic Rex Reed in the New York Observer.

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