Leave It to Beaver
Updated take on '50s TV show has some bullying.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Leave It to Beaver is a modernized version of the classic TV show and includes some mild bullying. Beaver gets his bike stolen, and the bullies taunt him. There's some tween kissing and flirting going on as Wally experiences the excitement and heartbreak of a first love. Expect a bit of name-calling and a few words like "crap."
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What's the Story?
Eight-year-old Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver wants a BMX bike. In the hopes of getting the bike, he does his best to please his father (Christopher McDonald), even going so far as to join the football team. On his birthday, Beaver gets the bike he wants, but while waiting outside a malt shop while his older brother Wally (Eric von Detten) tries to help the weaselly Eddie Haskell (Adam Zolotin) ask a girl out, a bully steals Beaver's bike. Beaver must figure out a way to get his bike back, while not telling his parents that he's not going to football practice because he's been staying after school to keep from failing his classes. Wally, meanwhile, starts dating the girl Eddie liked, but when he loses her to the bike thieves' equally rotten brother, Wally and "The Beav" set aside their sibling differences and work together to make things right.
Is It Any Good?
LEAVE IT TO BEAVER tries to find a middle ground between the nostalgia of the "innocent" 1950s and the contemporary concerns of the more modern 1990s, when the film was released. In other words, the filmmakers try to have it both ways, and they don't quite succeed in either attempt.
The movie works best when the characters act just as they did in the classic television show from the Eisenhower era. Adam Zolotin, the actor who plays the wonderfully weaselly Eddie Haskell, in particular deserves credit for capturing that mocking early teen laugh, the phony flattery to Ward and June Cleaver (played enjoyably with 1950s exaggerated gender roles by Christopher McDonald and Janine Turner), and all the other mannerisms originally presented by Ken Osmond -- who, along with the original June Cleaver, Barbara Billingsley, make entertaining cameos. But when the film tries to be a contemporary movie about contemporary kids with ginormous personal computers, Gameboys, and other relics of late-'90s kid culture, it feels forced and pointless. This would have been a much better movie had they kept it set in the 1950s, where it belongs.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how this film is an adaptation of a 1950s TV series. In what ways did the filmmakers evoke the spirit of the original show? In what ways did they try to make the characters, story, and setting more modern?
How realistic were the actions of the bullies? How would you deal with bullies?
Where did the film attempt to convey actual realities -- in and out of school -- that kids and parents contend with?
- On DVD or streaming: January 20, 1998
- Cast: Barbara Billingsley, Christopher McDonald, Janine Turner
- Director: Andy Cadiff
- Studio: Universal Studios
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild language and some elements of sensuality
- Last updated: October 8, 2022
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