September 01, 1997 12:00 PM

Janine Turner, Christopher McDonald

When Ward Cleaver (McDonald) comes home from another short day at the office, he puts the moves on his wife. “June, you’re vacuuming in pearls,” says Ward, pulling his housecleaning missus close. “You know what that does to me.”

“Stick around,” June (Turner) purrs suggestively, “and later I’ll slip into some oven mitts.”

Welcome to Leave It to Beaver, ’90s style. The original Beaver, which ran on network TV from 1957 to ’63 and in syndication seemingly forever, was the ultimate in wholesome family sitcoms. Baby Boomers who grew up on it and their kids—and, if the Boomers started out early, their grandkids—will get a big kick out of this movie version, an appealing comedy that knowingly tweaks the series without undercutting its fundamental message. That message? Families should get along, big brothers (like Wally) must look out for their little brothers (like 8-year-old Theodore, better known as the Beaver), and parents don’t always know better (Ward wrongly pushes the unathletic Beav into playing football).

As the elder Cleavers, Turner (Northern Exposure) and McDonald crisply poke fun at their characters without winking too broadly. Cameron Finley who plays the Beav, is seriously cute, and Erik von Detten, as Wally, convincingly suffers adolescent angst. (My 8-year-old companion, who knew naught of the Beav before the movie, had a swell time: “Some parts almost made me cry [Beaver’s bike is stolen], but a lot made me laugh.”) (PG)

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