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Leave It To Beaver

(This review originally appeared in the August 21-27, 1998 Long Island Voice.)

Reviewed by Beth Hannan Rimmels

Leave It to Beaver is a pleasant surprise. Never a fan of the original series, I expected a pointless attempt to cash in on a TV favorite. Instead, it turned out to be a gentle, amusing film that’s sweet without being cloying.

You know the set up: The Cleavers are a perfectly average family with loving parents and two happy sons — though by today’s standards they would be perfect, period — living in the small town of Mayfield. The youngest, nicknamed "Beaver," is a good-natured kid who gets into trouble through a child’s typical inexperience and lack of judgment. Older brother Wally has discovered girls but is still innocent enough to kiss and stop there.

Technically the story is about a bicycle Beaver desperately wants, the complications of Wally and Eddie’s innocent love lives, peewee football and the relationship between fathers and sons, but really it’s an excuse to spend time with some nice characters.

The film walks the tightrope between the ’50s and the ’90s without becoming a parody like The Brady Bunch Movie. Mom June (Janine Turner) doesn’t work and keeps a perfect house, milk comes in a bottle, kids stop at the soda shop after school and there are enough classic cars to make a car nut drool over his popcorn. But the kids have their own computer, in addition to mom and dad’s, most cars are modern and a few jokes — such as ones about athlete cups and near broken families — would have never made the TV show. Yet they’re handled here with such wide-eyed innocence that they don’t offend.

It also winks at itself with jokes about June’s pearls and appearances by the original actors. I expected to see more of Barbara Billingsley (the original June) as Aunt Martha, but it was still a treat. Ken Osmond (the original Eddie) as Eddie Haskell Sr. was disappointing. His comments about women seemed out of place in this gentle film, and I expected something along the lines of Eddie Jr. being a chip off the old block.

The kids in the audience loved Leave It to Beaver judging by their enthusiastic laughter. The slapstick and sillier jokes come regularly enough to keep the youngest of tikes from squirming too much while parents won’t be bored. If it had been released earlier in the summer, Beaver might have been the little David defeating Hercules Goliath at the box office.

Review 1997 Long Island Voice. Accompanying photographs  New Line Cinema.