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'The Tao of Steve': Slob in Love

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 18, 2000


    'The Tao of Steve' Dex (Donal Logue) is a leaky love boat, and the more women he seduces, the blinder he becomes to his desperate need for love. (Sony Pictures)
Mars and Venus are at it again in "The Tao of Steve," a charming, genre-bending romantic comedy that turns on an unlikely chick-magnet--a plus-size playboy who describes himself as a "big, fat pig." That makes him more of a Uranus than a Mars, but as Mama always said: Size doesn't matter, especially if he has a nice personality.

Although the movie's hero, Dex (affable Donal Logue), does have his disheveled, puppyish charms, he really isn't a nice person. Still, you could bring him home to Mama and even she might be fooled by his self-deprecating humor, his altogether too easygoing persona and his gift for gab.

Most women, in the movie anyway, are seduced by Dex's dating strategy (the tao of the title), which is allegedly founded on the philosophies of Heidegger, Laotzu and Marx (Groucho, not Karl). The tao consists of a series of three guidelines guaranteed to provide even ordinary schmoes with the sexual magnetism of a Steve McQueen.

As Dex repeatedly reminds his slacker buddies, the first and most crucial step is "the elimination of desire." Women, he says, can smell desperation. Next, one must do something excellent to show that he is sex-worthy; and last of all, he must beat a hasty retreat because as Heidegger (or somebody) once said, "We pursue that which resists."

Obviously, Dex is a leaky love boat, and his repeated conquests do nothing to buoy his courage, confidence or self-esteem. The more women he seduces, the further he sinks in his own regard and the blinder he becomes to his desperate need for love. The only cure for what ails him, of course, is a largish dose of his own yucky medicine and somebody to hold the spoon.

That would be the shrewd and stunning Syd (savvy Greer Goodman, who co-wrote the screenplay), a former classmate who sees right through Dex's masquerade and likes what she finds inside. The two meet again at their Santa Fe high school reunion. It's an especially humbling experience for Dex, who has gained at least a hundred pounds in the 10 years since graduation. Now he is literally the big man on campus.

"You used to be the king. You were Elvis!" one classmate exclaims.

"Now I'm fat Elvis," he rejoins.

To avoid the shocked stares and fat jokes, Dex wanders away from the crowd and comes on to the pretty young bartender. That's when Syd catches his eye and the mind games begin. Dex, who is clearly outmatched, tries out all his best moves, but Syd is steadfastly immune to his roly-poly posturing and the Zen of courtship. And his bemusement is delicious.

The yin and yang, so essential to romantic comedies, are fully exploited in the back-and-forth between the sexes. The screen's funny valentines fizzle without great repartee, and there's no lack of it here. Along with the leads' lively tussling, the filmmakers serve up "Diner"-esque banter for Dex and his slacker buddies, who jaw through daily rounds of poker and Frisbee contests.

The clean lines and sparkling skies of the movie's Santa Fe setting are lovingly captured by debuting director Jenniphr Goodman, sister of Greer. New Mexico is home to the Goodmans, who co-wrote the delightfully offbeat script with Duncan North, the real-life inspiration for the hero of this warmhearted, wonderfully witty and idiosyncratic look at gender games.

THE TAO OF STEVE (R, 90 minutes) – Contains adult language, bong use and sexuality.


© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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