The Tao of Steve
directed by Jenniphr Goodman
(Sony Pictures, 2000)

We have The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet. And, of course, we have the Tao, the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu. But that's not enough. For those guys out there wondering how to ensure success with women, we now have The Tao of Steve.

Directed by Jenniphr Goodman, The Tao of Steve examines the life philosophy of one Dex, a man approaching 30 who has lived his life according to a simple plan: Be a "Steve," not a "Stu."

As he explains it, all the best males in American culture are Steves, such as Steve Austin of The Six Million Dollar Man and Det. Steve McGarrett of Hawaii Five-O. And the biggest Steve of them all, Steve McQueen. "The Great Escape, man," is his full explanation of his philosophy's superiority.

Don't come on to women, but don't be friends with them, either," he says. "Do something excellent in their presence to demonstrate your sexual worthiness."

As Dex, Donal Logue (The Patriot, Jerry Maguire) is the epitome of what the Tao of Steve can win you. Overweight and under-ambitious to the extreme, Dex nevertheless has success in the dating-and-bedding sphere. Why? Because he never, ever, lets a woman know he wants to sleep with her. And this so perplexes the average woman that, of course, she pursues him until he ends up in bed with her.

This life is working remarkably well for Dex (if you call sleeping with the wife of a friend and just about every other impressionable woman in Santa Fe "working well"), until he runs across Syd. The friend of friends, and a former classmate, Syd is an opera set designer and rock band drummer who's not about to fall for the charms of Dex.

He's being out-Steved -- but the difference is, Syd isn't putting on an act. She's being truthful.

When Logue is onscreen -- and he's onscreen for nearly every scene -- he does bring a kind of manic likeability to much of the movie even if that likeability is more than balanced by your desire to smack Dex on the forehead to bring him to his senses. The bong is his breakfast, his current job is part-time, his social curiosity consists solely of playing Frisbee golf with his housemates in their back yard and his fridge is full of beer and the occasional orange juice container. All this in a package that's just attended a 10-year high school reunion.

Little wonder Syd (Greer Goodman, the director's sister) has little trouble resisting his advances.

The Tao of Steve does have some wonderful quirkiness at times -- novice and out-of-shape hikers and campers have found their movie match in Dex, as have people who sneak food to their dogs. And Logue almost can rescue The Tao of Steve when it bogs down in Dex spinning his wheels.

But something doesn't ring true in the dialogue Duncan North and Greer Goodman have given their male-female exchanges, or their all-male poker parties. And the first time you see the Dex/Syd antagonism, you know this is a movie that will pursue that relationship.

The Tao of Steve is "Based on a story by Duncan North. Based on an idea of Duncan North. Based on Duncan North," as the credits read. No word on whether Duncan still follows the Steve philosophy, or if he's discovered that a little "Stu" honesty counts for a lot in this world.

[ by Jen Kopf ]
Rambles: 26 January 2002

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