Okay, could someone please explain how a pot-bellied, lewd, chain-smoking Santa Fe kindergarten teacher can aspire to the immeasurable heights of Steve McQueendom? What if I were to tell you that it’s only “through the ‘Tao of Steve,” a simple, pseudo-Zen philosophy that can ensure that even the most pathetic of men get laid? You would probably say, “Yeah right.” That’s exactly what I said.
Dex (Donal Logue) lives his life according to ‘The Tao of Steve,’ a code of effortless cool that he feels helps him land uncommonly gorgeous women. The Tao of Steve is Dex’s New Age philosophy. He has borrowed elements of the wisdom of Lao Tsu and Buddha, and ultimately has created his own girl-getting shtick.
The film Tao of Steve focuses on Dex’s interest in Syd, a woman he meets at his college reunion, played by Greer Goodman, (sister of director Jenniphr Goodman). Dex likes Syd. Dex desires Syd. Syd makes Dex break Tao. Dex gives up one-night stands to find “spiritual truth” with one woman. Please. This lighter- than-a-marshmallow romantic comedy is not nearly half as deep and moving as its writers want us to believe.
For the rest of the film, Dex must wrestle with the fact that for once, his rules won’t do him a darn bit of good. Syd’s savvy responses to his seductive techniques puzzle our hero. It becomes clear that Syd is beautiful and smart, but just can’t get enough of a slob in a bad shirt. Dex can’t recall sleeping with Syd back in college. So basically, we are forced to struggle through the next 90 minutes of the film while the would-be lovebirds pretend to dislike each other. It’s like watching a bad episode of All My Children-goes-Southwest. Even though the material does not rise above sitcom level, the sleek Goodman and the scruffy Logue feed off each other’s lines. Supposedly, the film’s payoff lies in its ability to examine authentic human emotion – if you buy that.
Because of Jenniphr Goodman’s dry visual style (she sucks the life out of the camera), there’s virtually nothing that gives the images of Santa Fe a sense of ongoing energy. This is a major drawback, considering Goodman squanders a magnificent opportunity to capture the beauty of one of the most stunning parts of the country. It’s severely boring to watch.
Well, at least there is humor built into every line that truly shines, and the witty dialogue and great timing probably that saved the script from the shredder, not to mention my $4.50. Needless to say, sometimes what’s supposed to be slacker-profound humor is, at times, almost trite. In one scene, Syd asks Dex, “Don’t you want to go out and do something with your life, like climb a tree or get a full-time job?” Dex replies after hitting his bong, “Doing stuff is overrated. I mean Hitler did a lot of stuff, but don’t we all wish he had just stayed home and gotten stoned?”
There’s also something slightly dishonest about the way the film encourages us to enjoy Dex’s wacky bible of male behavior. Even though his life consists of smoking up, playing poker games (with crayons) and feeding whipped cream to his dog, his interest in philosophy and his ability to be glib prove that intellectually Dex really is no slouch. The wit incorporated into the dialogue animates the sentences and whole conversations.
In one scene, Syd asks him why he hasn’t been able to settle down with a woman. Dex replies, “Come on, am I supposed to remain celibate while I bask in the warm glow of your annihilating contempt?.” In another, Dex talks about his inability to grapple with the fact that no one pays respectful dues to God anymore. “I mean no one ever says, ‘hey God, how was your day?’” The truth is, we really don’t expect remarkable things from a guy who “feels like the sloppy stuff” in the middle of a Sloppy Joe sandwich.
There are many moments when you realize Dex really has a razor sharp intellect. (!) This discovery can make you want to either snicker with contempt or laugh wholeheartedly. Personally I was somewhere in between: you can’t help but realize that Dex overcomes the stereotypes of the audience with his superior sense of mediocrity. Throughout this 90-minute soap, I sat waiting impatiently for the moment where Dex would reach Enlightenment and finally grow up. I don’t think even the Goodman sisters were prepared to tackle that obstacle (no pun intended). The lights dimmed in the final scene with Dex and Syd grinning at each other expectantly. This is when I knew the end was upon me. (I don’t even want to know what happened after that.)