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'Young Ones' wastes intriguing dire-future premise

'Young Ones' wastes intriguing dire-future premise
Elle Fanning, Kodi Smit McPhee and Nicholas Hoult in "Young Ones." (Handout)

Writer-director Jake Paltrow's dystopian potboiler "Young Ones" starts with a lip-licking premise: As a catastrophic global water shortage creates a barren globe, it also spurs a new, wild, untamed West.

In this parched, resource-scarce near-future of a backdrop, Paltrow replants the tragic western: Lonely husband and father Ernest Holm (Michael Shannon), a supplier for desert-camp "watermen," dreams of once more cultivating his outpost of land and keeping his restless daughter (Elle Fanning) from an ambitious businessman's son, Flem (Nicholas Hoult).

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But as "Young Ones" segues into a tale of generational revenge, led by Ernest's adoring, naif-ish son Jerome (Kodi Smit McPhee), the movie's scattershot mix of styles iconic and ironic — think Sergio Leone filtered through Wes Anderson — proves fatefully problematic, in that your desire to care is rarely fed.

Paltrow's kitchen-sink visual sense may keep your eyes engaged, but it sucks dry any inherent drama, leaving you with a bunch of characters who feel pegged by a conjurer rather than nurtured from a wretched new Earth.

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"Young Ones"

MPAA rating: R for violence, language.

Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes.

Playing: Sundance Sunset, Los Angeles; Laemmle's NoHo 7, North Hollywood.

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