Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday July 28, 2020 


The Cleavers are the family you always wished you had. Ward (Christopher McDonald) is wise and wonderful, while June (Janine Turner) is the beautiful, perfect wife and mother. Big brother Wally (Erik von Detten) is good looking, smart, popular and athletic. And Theodore - aka Beaver (Cameron Finley) - is just a regular kid trying to stay out of trouble, while finding a thousand ways to mess up. Beaver feels he is always disappointing his Dad, and wants to be reassured that he is loved for who he is. When Wally’s friend Eddie (Adam Zolotin) suggests that ‘sucking up’ is the way to get a new bike, things start going wrong…

"In the 50s and 60s, television audiences seemed to hanker for sitcoms centered around the perfect family - like The Donna Read Show, My Three Sons and Leave It To Beaver. Perhaps at that time, seeing the mother cum housewife strutting about the spotless house complete with full make-up, hairdo, pearls and stockings as she vacuums the house didn’t make women reach for Valium or Prozac. It was an age when it was perhaps reassuring to see the entire neighbourhood’s manicured gardens and picture postcard houses. But in the 90s, are we still willing to accept the mother/wife looking as though she has just walked off a television commercial shoot, with heavy make-up and every hair sprayed in place? This is the mum who never yells, gets impatient or cross, but says inane phrases like ‘I’m a little worried about The Beaver’… Are we wanting, willing or able to accept such a family, set at a wishy-washy time somewhere between the 50s and 90s? And that’s essentially the trouble with Leave It To Beaver. It seems to want it all ways. Schmalzy and trite, it relies heavily on the goodwill and nostalgia. Pity, because there are some redeeming qualities to the film - namely a goodhearted charm, some delightful performances, and a fabulous melodic score by Randy Edelman which manages to include phrases from the original TV theme. Cameron Finley, with his turned up nose, long-lashed saucer eyes and freckly nose, is terribly cute as Beaver, while Erik von Detten (Wally) and Erika Christensen (Karen) make an appealing young teen couple. Christopher McDonald and Janine Turner fit the mould, but their performances are locked into stereotype and caricature. It’s hard to suspend disbelief with a script that has a precocious kid (Zolotin) saying ‘Fate has dealt me a winning hand’ and 8 year old Beaver sits sedately in a suit and tie at a family psychiatrist visit. Leave It To Beaver has a certain innocence rare in today’s film market, but whether or not this is what the kids of today want for movie entertainment remains to be seen."
Louise Keller

"This week sees two films based on tv shows: Lost in Space and Leave it to Beaver. Despite their obvious differences, both films have one thing in common: their reinforcement of idyllic family values. But where Lost in Space was content to pay a specific homage to those values and reinstating them for a contemporary audience, the big-screen Beaver's problem is a lack of relevance to the children of the baby boomer generation whose families were gently satirised in post-war America. The dilemma facing filmmakers in transposing this family to the big screen is that in appealing to the age group that sat around the tv in the late 50s enjoying the precocious Beaver getting himself out of trouble, they are addressing an audience that would have no idea who this character is. Now, as a simple family comedy, there's nothing inherently wrong with this movie adaptation. It's cute, somewhat amusing at times, and the young actor Cameron Finley is engaging as Beaver. But it all seems somewhat pointless. The film skips along through a series of uneventful plot divergences never really creating a sense of reality. This may have worked nicely had the film remained in the fifties, as in the case of the far better Brady Bunch film, and allowed us to be reminded of a quaint bygone era, rather than create a feeling of contemporary normalcy. In making the film contemporary, it is actually trapped in yesteryear, through the dismal characterisation of June Cleaver, played by a miscast Janine Turner. This is the nineties guys, and we still have women vacuuming the home with two kids at school? Kids, if they have any idea what they're seeing, and if they're not being swept away by Lost in Space, may find this film appealing, and it does have a simplistic charm. The rest of us, however, may take -or leave- the Beaver."
Paul Fischer

Email this article


Positive: 0
Negative: 3
Mixed: 0


CAST: Christopher McDonald, Janine Turner, Cameron Finley, Erik von Detten, Adam Zolotin, Barbara Billingsley, Ken Osmond, Frank Bank, Erika Christensen, Alan Rachins, E.J. De La Pena, Justin Restivo, Geoff Pierson, Grace Phillips

DIRECTOR: Robert Simonds

PRODUCER: Andy Cadiff

SCRIPT: Brian Levant, Lon Diamond, (based on the TV series created by Bob Mosher, Joe Connelly)


EDITOR: Alan Heim

MUSIC: Randy Edelman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Perry Andelin Blake

RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes




© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020