Greg Berlanti's last feature film in the director's seat was the 2010 moronic film "Life As We Know It" with Katherine Heigl; in fact it was the beginning of Heigl's current downward spiral of unprofitable, truly awful films. After eight year in television pergatory, it seems Berlanti learned a thing or two about filmmaking.


I can only assume a couple of those lessons learned were work with a better story and hire better actors. To wit the adaptation of Becky Albertfall's novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is the better story and casting Nick Robinson in the lead with Jennifer Garner at the top of a strong support cast demonstrate the practice of lessons learned.


Robinson's big break came in the 2013 indie film "The Kings of Summer" which catapulted him into the blockbuster "Jurassic World" two years later. He now plays the lead, Simon, a teenage boy from a Anytown USA who has come to the realization that he is gay. But to this point, he is unsure if and when to come out and tell everyone; let alone who to tell first.

He is surrounded by his mom (Jennifer Garner), macho dad (Josh Duhamel) and little sister (Talitha Eliana Bateman) as well as friends Leah (Katherine Langford), Abby (Alexandra Shipp) and Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.). None, have given any indication that they know he is gay. In fact his dad is constantly joking with him about most dads do with their sons.


Things get interesting when he finds out that another boy is still in the closet at his school and everyone wonders who it is. It's not the one guy who came out, Ethan (Clark Moore) - who was African-American and constantly publicly tormented by a couple of guys at the school - but seems to have an instant comeback.


Simon takes it upon himself to start an online chat with the closeted gay stranger in hopes of developing some sort of relationship. The plan works for a while until Simon's email is hacked by another, more obnoxious friend Martin (Logan Miller) who threatens to expose Simon if he does help get Martin in good with Abby. Abby is totally not into Martin. Simon reluctently agrees while still trying to develop the online relationship with the stranger.


Naturally, things fall apart and all of the friendships are tested after a big public humiliation involving just about all of them. Essentially, the story contains nothing that hasn't been told before, it just happens to do it in a John Hughes style that most folk will appreciate.


There is one guffaw which caught my attention and I'm not sure if it was a backsided editorial about lopsided American tolerance or just an unconscious error. [SPOILER ALERT] After Simon is outted, the same two boys who were harassing Ethan poked fun at Simon. Only this time they were called into the principals office and disciplined. I wondered, why they weren't disciplined after all the times they publically harassed Ethan? Interesting scene!


The performances were balanced and just about every character was well developed no matter the role. Tony Hale plays his vice Principal role a bit over the top but otherwise the film demonstrates well balanced performances and good timing.


"Love Simon" is a well done coming-of-age story for alternative lifestyle that could easily have been done by John Hughes.   -- GRADE B --   GEOFF BURTON