It’s only been a year since the premiere of the micro-budget comedy, “Women in Trouble,” but that hasn’t stopped director Sebastian Gutierrez from rushing out the second installment in his proposed trilogy just in time for its anniversary. There wasn’t a whole lot of outcry for a sequel, but considering just how fast and cheap these movies are to make, there probably wasn’t any time to wait around to find out. Unfortunately, while “Women in Trouble” featured a series of fun interconnected stories anchored by a clever script and strong performances from its mostly female cast, “Elektra Luxx” only offers a sliver of what made the first movie one of 2009’s underrated gems.
Picking up weeks after the events of “Women in Trouble,” the film opens with adult film star Elektra Luxx (Carla Gugino) still coping with the news that she’s pregnant. Now teaching a class on on making love like a porn star at the local community center, Elektra’s life is complicated once again when Cora (Marley Shelton) arrives in town with a proposition: help ease her guilty conscience by sleeping with her fiancé (Justin Kirk), and in return, she’ll give Elektra the lost lyrics of her late boyfriend, Nick Chapel (Josh Brolin). On the other side of town, porn blogger Bert Rodriguez (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) mourns Elektra’s exit from the adult film industry, only to be horrified to discover his sister (Amy Rossof) is interested in breaking in to the business, while Bambi Emmanuelle Chriqui) and Holly (Adrianne Palicki) head to Mexico for vacation.
To say that either plotline is integral to Elektra’s story would be pushing it, however, because while they do eventually come together in the end, “Elektra Luxx” isn’t as much of an ensemble effort as the first film. You needn’t look any further than the title of the movie to know that it’s predominantly about Elektra, and although Carla Gugino is great as the blonde bombshell (even getting a chance to show off her diversity playing Elektra’s lispy twin sister in a flashback sequence), it just doesn’t have the same charm as “Women in Trouble.” Only a handful of actors return for the second go-around (including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose role has been expanded beyond a short cameo), while many of the new characters, like Timothy Olyphant’s private investigator and Emma Bell’s cheating wife, aren’t on screen long enough to make an impression.
Thankfully, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Adrianne Palicki are also back for more, because they’re easily my favorite characters of the series. Palicki, in particular, steals the show as the lovesick amateur porn star, earning big laughs just about every time she opens her mouth. It’s at times like these where Gutierrez’s script shines, and although there aren’t as many here as in the previous movie, the writing remains his biggest strength. As a director, it’s a completely different story. Though Gutierrez definitely deserves points for experimenting with everything from black-and-white flashbacks to fantasy sequences and musical numbers, none of them are necessary and only take you out of the moment. Granted, “Elektra Luxx” isn’t a bad movie, but it’s still a disappointment after seeing how much could be accomplished with so little in “Women in Trouble.”