Making the Grades
The only light in the room comes from a small lamp beside the psychiatrist. The family is gathered together, at the school's request, to examine Beaver Cleaver (Cameron Finley) to determine why his grades are dropping. After a few questions, Beaver is the only member of the Cleaver clan who isn't guiltily examining his own life's failures and expectations. This hilarious scene is one of many insights that make Leave It To Beaver a great movie for parents, but what about children?
The Cleaver family, like many other sixties icons, has been transported to film in this movie adaptation that feels like a long television episode. Beaver has his heart set on a new bicycle for his birthday. Eddie Haskell (Adam Zolotin), a friend of Beaver's older brother Wally (Erik von Detten), convinces Beaver that he can get his heart's desire if he'll "suck up" to his father (Christopher McDonald) by doing something impressive. That leads to Beaver's decision to join the school football team. Meanwhile, Eddie is doing his best to attract the attention of a young lady who would rather be with Beaver's older brother... and so the stage is set.
For the many that would quickly classify this film as a family flic, think again. The story has a kids-know-best attitude that is compounded by the father's reluctance to speak openly with his children. Taking problems to parents seems a waste of time. Slapstick humor and typecasting run rampant -- every pre-adolescent boy needs a steady girlfriend and one overweight child is portrayed as a compulsive eater and continual mess.
The Cleaver's mistakes provide graphic illustration of how parents often hear their children, but don't listen to them, creating a juvenile movie that's inappropriate for children yet unintentionally valuable to parents. It's unfortunate that the audience most likely to benefit from this movie is the least likely to see it. Perhaps Leave It To Beaver's creators need a little time with their child psychiatrist in a dimly lit room...