Shannon, Hoult can't save 'Young Ones'

Tom Long
The Detroit News

There's a clunky unevenness to "Young Ones," another in the seemingly endless line of films about earth's grim future.

Indeed, the movie serves as proof positive that actors, no matter how talented, can't do it all on their own. The thespian lineup here — Michael Shannon, Nicholas Hoult, Elle Fanning and Kodi Smit-McPhee — is impressive, but the film still feels flat.

Which likely falls on writer-director Jake Paltrow, younger brother of Gwyneth. There's nothing visually arresting or emotionally stirring here, nothing that grabs or begs to be grabbed onto. The basics of a family epic in distressed times are laid out, but it's hard to either believe or care about anybody on the screen.

The story begins with Ernest Holm (Shannon), a onetime farmer whose land has turned to desert, thanks to an ongoing drought. He still holds onto his home there with his gangly teen son, Jerome (Smit-McPhee), and rebellious, blossoming daughter, Mary (Fanning).

His wife (Aimee Mullins) lives a quasi-robotic life at a hospital since a drunk Ernest crashed their truck one night. Ernest keeps the family fed by transporting supplies up a mountain to a camp that controls the local water supply.

It's hard life made even harder by the intrusion of a local punk named Flem Lever (Hoult) who is encouraging Mary's wild side while also conspiring to undermine Ernest's employment. When Flem steals Ernest's transport carrier — a cute, four-legged walking wagon of sorts — he sets in motion a tale of betrayal and revenge.

Which has all the right parts, but somehow they never come together. Emotional scenes come out of nowhere then fizzle out, characters appear and disappear, hints of the wider world never coalesce. No matter how grim the future may be, it deserves a better movie in the here and now.

'Young Ones'


Rated R for some violence and language

Running time: 100 minutes