Midway through Love, Simon 17-year-old Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) frolics across a gleaming college campus while "I Want to Dance With Somebody" plays and a rainbow flag dangles in the background.
It's a wondrous scene, but it's also a fantasy. Simon is still in high school, and his sexual orientation is a secret warily kept from his parents (Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel), although an email correspondence with an anonymous gay teen who calls himself "Blue" inspires Simon to try to kick down the closet door.
Based on the young-adult novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Love, Simon is a romantic comedy that recalls John Hughes at his peak. Simon and his two best friends (played by Katherine Langford and Alexandra Shipp) goof off and talk about their feelings to the beat of an infectious pop soundtrack.
Yet beneath the film's spunk and gloss is a story that makes you feel every surge of Simon's emotions, including the giddy yearning he feels as he awaits Blue's emails, the queasy anguish that strikes when his dad cracks a homophobic joke and the exultation that washes over him when he realizes he deserves to be loved for nothing less than who he is.
CRITIC'S RATING: 4/4 stars
Love, Simon is rated PG-13 and opens on Friday, March 16 at Bridgeport, Cascade, Clackamas, City Center, Division, Eastport, Living Room, Lloyd Center.